It hatched the singularity
as if it were an egg,
haunted the wilderness,
twisted prophets’ tongues.
Like a rain of gold
it filled a virgin’s womb.
Fire, wind, a dusty dove–
some say it overturned the world.

One Sunday when Betty was a girl
she peeked into the Holy Roller church
and saw her neighbor—
she made us donuts on Saturdays,
dyed her hair with butter-color–
anyway, she was rolling down the aisle
and everybody was clapping and jabbering
some lingo I couldn’t make out.

That’s a pretty rare thing
in Vermont, Betty and I agreed.
We have a spirit here, yes,
but more like a river in thaw,
ripe tomatoes,
or that first blinding snow.
It doesn’t run its mouth, or roll.

Do you have that noisy kind?
Do you want it?
And what in the world
would you do if you had it?
Even the charismatic Paul complained:
     What’s the point 
      if nobody understands?


How many times did they reschedule your funeral?
The red granite marker took forever to carve.
Complexities:  how like you.

Too much incense, endless Litanies of Saints.
The long faithfulness, denial:
your brilliant alcoholic wife assembling puzzles in her cluttered room.

You taught me to look under library tables.
Truth is in the marginalia,
beneath the ink on the page.

The character of Abelard 
could not be understood
outside the meter of his Latin hymns.

Eight years to learn to ride a war horse.
The Reformation failed.
The Bishops all were set ablaze in good Queen Mary’s sanguine days.

That March night it snowed the worst I’ve seen it,
and the long drive from Montpelier home to Castleton
you saved us with Gilbert and Sullivan.

Soups of gray mystery meat mined from your bottomless freezer,
Easter paté en croute,
funeral bells, your raucous Alleluias.

We sang them loud for you when they bore your ashes home.
Too bad we didn’t have more time to learn.
It seems some years there’s never time.


Come Holy Spirit, come
like a red eft creeping out
from under wet leaves,
crossing the travelled highway
at night after rain.
Come like the brown anole comes north
unexpected in bananas or limes;
like a gecko hunting roaches on a wall.
Come like chameleon;
like iguana still as deep green death
flittering a cloven tongue.
Come like Komodo parting the ways
with your stinking breath.  Come
clear the carrion from this isle.
Come Holy Spirit
come like the Dragon remembered of old
rattling and clanking on golden wings.
Seize our treasures  for your twinkling hoard.
Burn away all that will burn.

published in:

The Other Side, Spring, 2003
Behold:  Arts for the Church Year, Lent Easter 2006
And most recently in a book called at the Still Point, A Literary Guide to Prayer in Ordinary Time, compiled by Sarah Arthur, Paraclete Press, 2011


So friends, when you come together
to wait upon God, come orderly
in fear of God;
the first that enters
into the place of your meeting,
be not careless,
nor wander up and down,
either in body or mind,
but innocently
sit down in some place,
and turn in thy mind
to the light,
and wait upon God singly,
as if none were present
but the Lord.

Then the next comes in,
let them in simplicity of heart
sit down and turn
in the same light,
and wait in the Spirit;
and so all the rest coming in,
in the fear of the Lord,
sit down in the pure stillness
and silence of all flesh.
and wait in the light.

~A. R. Barclay, Letters &c of Early Friends (London, 1841)
found in Albion’s Seed by David Hackett Fischer