Friday Poems: Peace Pole

May peace prevail on earth

Is what we read and why we’re here.

Moce Friede Auf Erden Sein

The words again in our father’s tongue.


The cool wind calls through

Rushing treetops

While leaves drop like

Golden cluster bombs

And land among the feet of children.

Only here, at our peace pole

We need not fear leaves

Falling from the sky.

We are safe.


Seated in a staggered

And erratic circle,

Students shiver

The cool fall shiver of October.

Soon back to school,

The shiver will be gone,

The thought of cold, evaporated.

But what of peace,

Of thoughts of peace and a world

Of fear and death and destruction

And children shivering the endless

Shiver of poverty

And walking the prosthetic limp

Of the cold remnant of someone else’s’ war?


Will those thoughts evaporate as well?

Will we return to the malaise of every day

And shallow talk and cheap grace?


Light pours down, filtered and soft,

Mingling, warming,

Guiding through the dark night

And out into the dawn.


October 6, 2006

(After Friday peace service at the campus peace pole)


Friday Poems: Agnus Dei

We entered the arboretum

Under the same majesty of stars and sky.

We came to worship in song,  in fellowship.

Though I do not know you, we worshiped

The God of all creation,

The God of love and joy and hope and salvation


I came physically whole,

Healthy and when the song leader suggested standing,

I stood, raised my small son to his perch on my shoulders and praised.

You remained seated.

As we sang, as we worshiped in spirit and in truth,

You, in your broken body and shell of the man you once were,

Leaned toward your wife,


She nodded, stood.  

You braced yourself against her grasp now outdoing your own.

She lifted and you helped as you could,

She lifted and sang into your eyes and you into hers.

Standing for that short moment

You joined the angels in praising, 

In giving glory to the God of  creation,

To the God of heaven and earth.

And to the God of hope,

Of a new heaven and a new earth and one day,

Of a new body.  

Your very being called out to God,

“You are good, you are good, 

Though you may slay me, 

Still will I know that you are good.”


 October 20, 2006

 For Maynard Yoder – Thank You!

Friday Poems: I Saw You Today

Written as a telling of a particular day in Istanbul, this poem is part confession, part challenge and in many ways is complicated.  Life is complicated.  Things are not always as I would wish them to be, cut and dried, black and white, easy to fit into my boxes.  This is a poem as I saw it, as I lived and experienced it.

I saw you today.

Walking past my office window,

dumpster to dumpster with drag foot strides,

I saw you, – all of you.

You two mothers pushing finds in converted baby buggies,

babies slung over bent backs,

one tugging at the slack edge of a scarlet head scarf.

Your three and four year olds –

boys in rags and broken sandals –


sometimes behind, sometimes squirting ahead,

but always walking wearily,

wary of the ways of the back of your hand.

Harsh hand and harsher words carry them down dumpster lined streets.

The four year old’s mother

hands an unpeeled orange to his open hand,

rescued from refuse, but fails to peel it.

He makes a marvelous mess of pulp and juice before she,

the giver, the guardian,

slaps it from his greedy fingers.

On they walk,

on into their gypsy life,

their wandering life,

their hungry life,

And they disappear.


a father came.

A father with another four-year old

and another converted baby buggy

and another journey down and Istanbul street,

dumpster to dumpster, market to market,

meal to meal to find to find.

He stops the buggy behind a black Mercedes,

says stay – to the buggy and the boy,

and crosses to the waiting meal in the market trash.

The boy stays, 

lips moving – presumably for himself though I could not hear,

fingers fondling the days find.

But then a man approaches,

middle-aged and well dressed,

talking kind words to the boy, beckoning –

And the boy goes without qualm

quickly on his heels and into the next door store.

But then the father returns,

smiling at the two bruised apples and smashed orange in his hands

to find the buggy but not the boy.

I see it then.

I see how much love he harbors in his tired heart for his son.

I see it in the fear that creep into his eyes.

I see it in the terror of his movements

and in the two new  bruises the apples receive

as they hit the concrete at his broken sandals.

I see it in his hands, cupped around shouting lips –

And finally,

I see it in the flood of relief that his snack smiling son

gives him when he bolts from the store,

cookies clutched in jubilant hands.

Relief comes.

A broken heart is not broken more.

The middle-aged man walks past the two,

a silent Samaritan not letting left know what right had done.

On he walks, 

on into his Muslim life,

his secular life,

his blessed life.

And he disappears.


I walk home along the sea,

praying for this nation,

praying for grace and discernment to be salt and light.

I stop at the store,

mindlessly buying four kinds of noodles,

not knowing what we’ll make with them.

My groceries and I make our way to the tunnel where I will cross the tracks,

and there

On a concrete bench

Sit two tired teenage boys.

“Mister, we’re hungry.  Do you have any food?  Do you have any money?”

I stop, surprised.

“Would you like some noodles?”

I offer to blank stares and then add –

“You can cook them at home.”

Their look tells me they may not have a home.

“We’re hungry mister.  Do you have any money?”


I turn and walk

And cross the tracks

And walk from them

And disappear.

But the five lira in my pocket doesn’t disappear.

And the words of Jesus don’t disappear.

“You will always have the poor among you.”

Among you.

It seems now more a command than a fact.

A command I’ve missed through the sham of  fact.

Among you.

If the poor are not among us,

Could it be we disobey?

I surely did today.

I surely did today.

(previously published at Stories from Turkey and The Everyday Language Learner)

Friday Poems: I Brought You Here Today

I’ve written much poetry through the years, but always in occasional bursts, seasonal storms of inspiration that produce five to ten new poems and then no more.  I hope I can begin writing poems more often, but until then, I wanted to start something new (and add some regular content to the blog) by introducing Friday Poems, a regular series in which I’ll post an old poem every Friday.

Today’s poem was written when I was teaching high school English at Freeman Academy.  We were reading Walden by Thoreau and so I took my junior class to the prairie arboretum behind the school in hopes that they would more readily identify with the text and in some way, catch a bit more of Thoreau’s message.

I brought you here today with hopes

That cricket calls and autumn breezes

And the fading warmth of sun

Might somehow help,

Might somehow call you as a class

Into a Thoreauvian trance.

You would read a bit,

Raise your eyes from the page and ponder-

“I went to the woods . . .”

“I did not wish to live what was not life . . .”

“I wanted to live deep and suck the out all the marrow . . .”

“Our life is frittered away by detail . . .”

“Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity . . .”

But your minds were swept up in

“Saint Vitus’ dance” of cheap talk and flirting

and hanging out as friends.

Born was a  gazebo sanctuary

Of talk and procrastination and

The sweet scent of friendship.

Perhaps today was a failure.

Perhaps, success unseen.

October 2, 2006