Monday, May 3, 2010

My People and Watching

I read a beautiful children's book with photographs illustrating the Langston Hughes poem, "My People."

My People

The night is beautiful,
So the faces of my people.

The stars are beautiful,
So the eyes of my people.

Beautiful, also, is the sun.
Beautiful, also, are the souls of my people.

Langston Hughes

I don't know the best way to post information on it, but here is a link: My People
It's worth looking for in a local library or bookstore.

Here's another of mine.


I’m watching my life, backwards and forwards,
To see where you’ve fit—where you fit—where you’ll fit.
Why am I watching? You didn’t ask?
So I won’t tell you—there’s no way I could.

Yet I watch every move, every word, every thought,
Like I sometimes watch swallows, or seagulls, or flowers,
Or sunsets, to see what might surprise me
And make me stop, and say, “Oh."

Friday, April 16, 2010

Two impressions of religion in Italy

I wouldn't have chosen this next poem, but I visited this area of Italy where the massacre occurred. In this place is where John Taylor, and later Ezra Taft Benson, dedicated Italy for missionary work, as well. I must say that my lifetime's experience with the Pope (and several lifetimes before mine) has been nothing like this "triple Tyrant" that Milton describes. Some things have certainly changed for the better.

On the Late Massacre in Piedmont

Avenge, O Lord, thy slaughtered Saints, whose bones
  Lie scattered on the Alpine mountains cold;
  Even them who kept thy truth so pure of old,
When all our fathers worshiped stocks and stones,
Forget not: in thy book record their groans
  Who were thy sheep, and in their ancient fold
  Slain by the bloody Piemontese, that rolled
Mother with infant down the rocks. Their moans
The vales redoubled to the hills, and they
  To heaven. Their martyred blood and ashes sow
O’er all the Italian fields, where still doth sway
  The triple Tyrant; that from these may grow
A hundredfold, who having learnt thy way,
  Early may fly the Babylonian woe.

        John Milton 1608-1674

I wrote this next poem as I was leaving Italy, or shortly after I left. I may now question the accuracy of a couple of lines, but it is true to how I felt, and I like the sounds and pictures.

No One Will Ever Know

I lost my mind.
Or more truly, the world did.
How I loved, how I hoped,
How I prayed, how I groped for truth
in a foreign world.
How I lived the strangeness of every day.
How the clock ticked,
My heart beat,
My friends breathed,
And the city moved around us.
How in a place most will never hear of,
I did a work most will never know.
How I loved people that will never
make the news.
How our names will only be remembered
to our children,
But we don’t care because,
For one moment,
We knew we had a friend,
And knew that life was good and God was love.
But no one will ever know
Because the world has lost our minds
That died with us,
Still inside our heads.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Jonathan Edwards and another poem

I just read a nice, short book about Jonathan Edwards. I still think some beliefs he considered very important are crazy, but I'm convinced he was a very good, thoughtful man who sought to do God's will and help others do the same. This is a short quote from him:

We make a distinction between the things that we know by reason, and things we know by revelation. But alas we scarce know what we say: we know not what we should have known . . . had it not been for revelation. . . . Many of the principles of morality and religion that we have always been brought up in the knowledge of, appear so rational that we are ready to think we could have found ‘em out by our own natural reason. . . .

Jonathan Edwards, The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God, in The Great Awakening, ed. C. C. Goen, WJE, vol. 4 (1972), p. 240, in Jonathan Edwards and the Ministry of the Word, Douglas A. Sweeney, InterVarsity Press (2009), p. 92.

I suppose a mission poem is appropriate with the above quote, since Jonathan Edwards was perhaps the most influential theologian in creating the culture among Evangelical Christians (and some other major groups) of preaching the Word to the whole world. I wrote this for a woman I worked with in Italy for several months. We were a few months from going home, and she was feeling down about her accomplishments. I'm sure the Italian translation isn't perfect, but it was the best I could do, and I'm not better at it now.

Sorella Mia

A friendly life comes to a sprawling town—
A town that’s made of metal, rock, and glass,
Where crumbling streets and walls can be replaced,
And no one ever misses just a stone.
A lovely friend comes to a living heart—
A soul that’s made of feeling, blood, and flesh,
Which makes of all an undivided mesh—
Imperfect if without its smallest part.
The life may leave the city, and her mind
May think, for all she’s tried, that she bereaves
The town of nothing from her soft effect,
And when the friend will leave the heart behind,
She’ll think her touch, as with the town, she leaves
Unfelt, but truly years will not forget.

Una vita simpatica viene a una crescente citta’—
Una citta’ fatta di metalo, pietre, e vetri
Dove strade e muri crollanti possono essere rifatti
Ed a nessuno manchera’ un solo sasso.
Una bella amica viene a un vivo cuore—
Una anima fatta di sentimento, sangue, e carne,
La cui fa di tutto una rete indivisa—
Imperfetta se e’ senza la minima parte.
La vita potrebbe lasciare la citta’, e sua mente
Potrebbe pensare, malgrado tutto cio’ che lei avesse fatto, che spoglia
La citta’ di niente dal suo gentile effetto,
E quando l’amica lasciera’ in dietro il cuore
Pensera’, cosi’ come con la citta’, di avere lasciato il suo tocco
Inosservato, ma in verita’ gli anni non potranno dimenticarlo.

Friday, March 26, 2010


The second poem defined the topic of this post. Mine isn't one of my favorites, but I really liked it when I wrote it. I suppose it's a snapshot of me, so OK to share. I do really like the development of George Herbert's image and its sudden resolution that is only a beginning.

“Neither did their own arms save them”
            Psalm 44:3

Fatigued, my arms had let me fall and then
They picked me up and climbed and fell again.
My mind then tired and asked my arms if still,
In their fatigue and hurt, they had the will
To reach the top? Or was there happiness
In doing good below with tiredness
Less great, if also strength was less? For arms
Unspent still more can give than wasted arms.

In wisdom arms of parents took new hold
Of my young life that they had let unfold
A bit alone, and stood me up and said,
“You know you want to climb. With lifted head
You’ll climb to reach the top, but you must do
Good works along the way and seek what’s true.
And even if you never reach the top
You have to love the climb and never stop.”

Then life returned and I began to climb
And work and share and do some good, and time
Began to make me smile and lose some pride;
No longer did I seek a place to hide,
But seek to climb and not concern my mind
With how high was the top and who would find
That I was so far down and climbing slow
With hardly strength of will to even go.

But then I found a friend and strength to pull
As I thought more of her than of the role
I wasn’t playing as I thought I should.
There, climbing up to her, the climb was good.
She offered me her arms as I came near
And gave me strength and hope, and took my fear
That made me fall, and held me with kind care.
When I could climb no more, I rested there.

Then it was time to climb again alone.
I left my friend and parents and my home.
I had to help some others farther down,
But still I felt the lifting arms surround
And help me climb to places I would not
Have reached, for by myself not strength nor thought
Were great enough.  I also felt a part
Of them. With them I opened up my heart.

Then all changed. The lifting arms were gone,
And all my strength was asked to just hang on.

Our Father then uncovered his strong arm,
Which through all things protected me from harm,
And picked me up and said, "You want to reach
The top, but you must help to climb, and teach,
And love to learn from all that you will know.
For all alone the way’s too hard to go.
To two together I will give my hand
And in your climb lift you to higher land.


Having been tenant long to a rich Lord,
Not thriving, I resolved to be bold,
And make a suit unto Him, to afford
A new small-rented lease, and cancel th’ old.
In heaven at His manor I Him sought:
They told me there, that He was lately gone
About some land, which He had dearly bought
Long since on Earth, to take possession.
I straight returned, and knowing His great birth,
Sought Him accordingly in great resorts—
In cities, theatres, gardens, parks, and courts:
At length I heard a ragged noise and mirth
   Of thieves and murderers; there I Him espied,
   Who straight, “Your suit is granted,” said, and died.

        George Herbert 1593-1633

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Two Tributes

I know that all beneath the moon decays,
And what by mortals in this world is brought,
In Time’s great periods shall return to nought;
That fairest states have fatal nights and days;
I know how all the Muse’s heavenly lays,
With toil of sprite which are so dearly bought,
As idle sounds, of few or none are sought,
And that nought lighter is than airy praise;
I know frail beauty like the purple flower,
To which one morn both birth an death affords;
That love a jarring is of mind’s accords,
Where sense and will invassal reason’s power:
   Know what I list, this all can not me move,
   But that, O me! I both must write and love.

        William Drummond of Hawthornden 1585-1649


I will not marvel more at spiring mount
Than at the flowering stem that God has grown,
Nor oceans strangest beauties will I count
More grand than common truths that God has shown.

I will not love him more who with his wealth
Will build an edifice unto his god
Than him who in his love will spend his health
To grow a passing flower for his God.

William Drummond of Hawthornden wrote this poem, and apparently most
of his poems, after the woman he loved died young. I feel like I can relate to his sentiment that, even though everything falls apart in this mortal life, he can't help loving and creating. I wrote mine while on my mission after hearing of my grandpa's death. He was a botanist, and a dedicated gardener until his death, even when it took him most of the day just to get out to the garden and back in for meals.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Pinewood Derby

I've been teaching in our church children's Sunday school organization for several years, and a couple of years ago we had a chance to participate in the Pinewood Derby. I missed the races as I ended up working in the lab late that day, or much of that weekend, but I had a blast making the car.