Poem: Innkeepers

Living in a tourist area has given me a new appreciation for one little aspect of the Nativity account. I know innkeepers now, along with people who run gift shops and clean hotel rooms and serve in restaurants. Theirs are bi-polar lives: a manic pace in the summer, a dearth of activity in the winter.  My friends here are people who like people: they enjoy their visitors and customers;  they like the conversations and the interchanges with vacationers. But I can tell you that they get tired. Nearly two million people come here in the summer and fall, and it’s a grueling pace to keep.

For many years I’ve written a Christmas poem. Now that I know a few innkeepers, the words from Luke caught my eye this season as I read through the advent account.  Here’s imagining…

“..and everyone went to their own town to register…While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room available for them in the inn.”  Luke 2:3,7



They grow weary of crowds, of laundry relentless
of chatter continual, the same questions again and again

When there are no rooms, there’s little to be done
The sty, with the stink of animals
at least was something
Who doesn’t know, he was surely thinking
that the town would be full, the hotels all arranged months ahead.
But here is a man, and here is a woman
so ready to burst, so weary.

A midwife had to be found
blood and muffled screams
the girl alone
laboring with strangers

and then shepherds with stories
searching for a baby
chiding the man for the stable
saying give them a better place
saying these people are better than they seem





Poem: Man of the Upper Room

In this week before Easter, I have spent time again reading the accounts of Jesus’ last few days on earth. The Gospels report the events, but I am always drawn to the people that must have been so affected by those events.

Here are my thoughts on one of them, the host (restauranteur?) who provided that last supper for Jesus and the disciples.   (For extra background, read Mark 14:12-15 or Luke 22:7-13.

Jesus remembered the Passover, eating that Seder dinner with his disciples in the tradition that would have been done by Jews in Jerusalem for centuries. But He also knew His own death was coming. Along with other Christians, I see powerful symbolism in His death – a new sacrifice for a new kind of Passover. I’ve hoped to hint at that with this poem.

Man of the Upper Room

 Of course you can use this room, I said to
those friends of His, riding high on
celebrity, renown.

And yes, I’ll keep it a secret
promising to keep away onlookers, the flocking crowds
who wanted to gawk
see scales fall from eyes
watch magic food multiply inside baskets.

Yes, I’ll have extra basins of water for your feet
Though I hardly thought they’d need it
walking as they did that week on green palm leaves
fame growing, applause ringing
smiles ubiquitous.

There will be enough lamb for the dinner, I assured
and spent the day slaughtering.
Blood of goats and sheep
flowed into the mud just outside the door.

All is ready, I told them.
But I was not ready

He washed my feet
made me eat with them.
Kindly, He said my lamb did not
particularly matter.
And, there was to be more
blood, His blood.


Our song. ( Poem)

Some couples have “their song.” In the movies, lovers swoon, turn sentimental when it comes on a jukebox. Now, spouses make it their ring tones.  This is the closest thing we’ve got. True story.


Our Song

We had no business climbing.

I didn’t have the right shoes.

I had rarely walked so far,
never climbed so high.

But we walked anyway, always up.
Through pine forests
past smooth granite and
thickets of rhododendrons
across rocky ridges of shale.

Above the tree line
we labored in a boulder field on all fours.

Early though, we heard the song of a white throated sparrow.

Whether we chased him up or merely followed,
the whole way up Mt. Washington
it sang.

Clear-like-water notes
echoed across those ridges, around the turns,
back and forth on switchbacks

until its song soared into our memories
and lasted
across all those years.

Today there is one at my feeder,
a white throat.
I heard his song in the barren
shrubs outside my window.

We walk on flat ground now.
Four pure notes

still accompanying our climb


to listen, click here. ( Scroll down, click on “Song”)

From Mary


When I woke
the birds were singing

foretaste of what was to be

In my tears ( again)
I could barely see to lift the spices
and the cloths to wash Him

Walking there
I heard distant laughing

In my bitterness I wondered at how quickly they’d forgotten

But there was no stopping those birds from singing

They kept on
until joined with gardener’s words
and angel songs
there was a mighty symphony when I heard His voice call my name


I touched Him
and heard Him

my Lord and My God



( I wrote this poem years ago.  Happy Easter!)

Choosing- a Poem



Her headscarf, a lovely shade of rose
hides curls, I think, and a surprising streak of auburn.

I wonder if, in the reddish soil of her home
pomegranates are growing, just now, in her garden.

And if they do and you were there, sitting in the sun,
would you smile
take one that she offered
say thank-you?

Or would you stand
doling out bits of manners like crumbs?


His skin, the color of rich ground that grows potatoes
sings lamentations, sings silence
sings pain.

I wonder if, in the summer of his home
his children are laughing
twirling in soft grass

And if they are, and you were there,
would you watch stars
listen to old stories
let them make you wise, good?

Or would you, even in that place of air
keep your foot on his neck

and hold him

tire swing

Poem: The Falling of Cold Rain


The Falling of Cold Rain

Inside, I listen to rain beating.

But there was no staying dry
for the woman on this land before me
in cabin of hewn logs
spent and weary after a day
of moving rocks
willing potatoes from the soil

Longer ago before her,
girls, at fourteen
wandered and moved with their clans
fished at nearby dunes.
In shelters of hide, pines,
they could not have been glad
at the dripping of bone-chill rain.

And even now
rain pours upon fleeing refugees
drenches mothers who hammer gravel from stone
and makes cold the scratched-armed, spine-bent children
who gather beans for my chocolate.

The rain falls on the just and the unjust,” Christ said.

But it does not fall on me.


images Writing Prompt. This poem is about privilege. What do you have that others don’t?


A lovely collaboration between artists and writers is happening this month in Door County.

Beautiful places attract artists, and these places also inspire artists to create more beauty.  Door County has always been full of artists and writers, of music and theatre. One could spend days visiting artists’ studios, viewing art, attending concerts, watching plays, reading the works of locals, or attending classes of all sorts to feed a creative interest.

In the short time I’ve lived here, I’ve attended five poetry workshops. I belong to two writing groups. I’m helping out on the board of Write-On Door County, whose aim is to nurture reading and writing in the area. I’ve taught three writing classes, and will teach two more this week: one for seniors who want to write down their stories, and one for high school kids who are writing college entrance essays.

But I’m getting sidetracked. Edgewood Orchard Gallery is one of those lovely “art” places to visit. The old barn, refurbished years ago, has light streaming in, onto a changing collection of artists’ work for sale. Outside, there’s a sculpture garden that’s perfect for meandering. The works are beautiful and varied, and every time I go, it feels like I’m visiting an art museum rather than a place to shop. ( Kudos to the owners for making me feel that way.)

Speaking of owners Nell and JR. Jarosh,  they are honoring Write-on, Door County with a special benefit this month. 10% of all profits will be donated to the organization, and a few of their artists have graciously donated a piece of art to the cause.  In addition, the gallery and WODC are collaborating with an ekphrastic challenge called Art/Speaks. Ekphrastic poetry has been written for centuries; they are poems written in response to a piece of art. So this month, writers and poets are encouraged to wander the gallery and write. There are chairs, there is paper. We can sit and ponder and write in front of a piece of art that speaks to us.

That’s a long introduction to my ekphrastic poem. But beyond posting a poem, I’m grateful to live in a community that encourages me to create, to write.

On Swim Team, no 26, a painting by Rebecca Kinkead

See the image here:

Line at the Diving Board

We did it all our lives: formed queues.
We watched, single-filed, thinking of what we’d have, we’d do.
Waiting for our time in the sun.

Yet when it was our turn
to sit at our mother’s deathbed
lose our job or breast or house
question God for pain

we were no more ready than the person before us
to jump
fall through air
try to swim.

~Ann Heyse