Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Lazy Heart

Fragonard, The Swing
Remembering summer...
when there’s something in the air that weighs

it down—that enervating water-pollen mix,
perhaps— when the barometer has risen, or
it’s fallen, at the moment I’m afraid I don’t
remember which— and when the sky’s opaque
and dull, and even chatty cardinals don’t
communicate; a robin can’t be bothered to
investigate a sign of subterranean activity within
her territory, though it would likely yield
a meal—

and I suppose they’re healing from frenetic
spring, which, once awakened, rubbed its eyes
and surged to life, demanding that its
denizens fall smartly into place, and now
they’re taking mental-health days; we should
pay attention, for they put our human pace
to shame—

on days like these my heart is lazy. It would
love to lie about and gravitate toward
yesterday when it imagines that it didn’t have
to labor so to be engaged with people, places,
occupations. “Ah, if only now were then,” it
teases, tempting me to give it space for
wallowing, and all too soon the rest of me
would follow, and I’d wish to have my lively
children back who at the time I’d hoped
would hurry and mature and move away.
It’s true there was contentment that 
eludes me now, when I have time to 
brood and notice small tears in the

I tell my heart it doesn’t need to drift in
gravity’s deceptive ease, or shiver in the
clammy air, or rid itself of insubstantial
burdens. Little effort is required to ascend the
gentle path to love. The poor heart merely
must present itself and can be certain of
success, for love has its own energy, and does
the rest.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017




Cruising in our nearly new Nineteen Fifty-Four Pontiac
past fields of ripening corn and sorghum, my sister
and brother engrossed in their books and the car radio
playing softly, part of an impromptu trio, Mom humming
and Dad whistling to the singing of the Sons of the Pioneers,
we drifted along with the tumbling tumbleweeds, except that
Dad and not the wind was in control, skillfully and purposefully
steering, lest we drift off the edge of the horizon instead of
checking in just after dusk at the Best Western. Now, with
eyes half-closed and Raggedy Ann as my pillow, I leaned back
and watched the grassy shoulder glide by, milkweeds and
black-eyed Susans rampant, as the tumbleweeds gave way
to the sweet strains of Eddie Heywood, Hugo Winterhalter, and
a mystical, faraway Canadian sunset I suddenly longed to see.
The way my father whistled, slipping deftly from melody
to harmony and back, I was sure he knew that sunset
and that place and he would take me there someday, wherever
it might be, if I asked him to. But just as suddenly there was
no need; everything that life could offer was contained
in a Nineteen Fifty-Four Pontiac on a two-lane highway
and the radio, the songs, and the summer afternoon.
The Sons of the Pioneers, with Roy Rogers

On YouTube:

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Do You Know Why?

Leopold Kupelwieser, The Journey of the Three Kings, 1825  

Baby Born on Christmas

Lo, the baby born on Christmas~
    Sisters, hear the sound
of angels singing
angels all around
He is sweet as Heaven’s
    meadows, flourishing,
fed by living water.
    Save, O sacred spring,
the brittle hope that clings like
    petals to the dry
rose; and we sing Alleluia~
Do you know why?

Lo, the baby born in winter
    in a barren land;
Brothers, can you see the tender
    growth upon the sand?
Death is in possession
    of the frozen ground;
yet the angels carol~
    angels all around.
Glory, Alleluia,
is their lullaby.
We, too, sing him Alleluia~
Do you know why?

Underneath the fragile
   surface of the lake,
creatures keep their vigil;
   soon the land will wake
fertile seeds, at rest before
   their season has begun,
sleeping until morning,
   waiting for the sun.

Life does not surrender
   when the dry leaves, stung
by frigid fingers, flutter,
   yielding one by one.
When the wind blows bitter
   o’er the frozen earth,
Life comes new in winter
   with the baby’s birth.

We are born anew then,
   clean and fresh as morning;
of the past unburdened,
   everything forgiven;
born and born again yet
   seventy times seven.
As often as we seek it,
   living Grace descends.

Baby born in winter,
   Children, this we celebrate
on Christmas, for his innocence
   is born in us today.

by Mary Campbell, 2008
Available as a Christmas card on Annagrammatica.com

Thursday, December 8, 2016

...and All Things Shine


Because I have been less than inches
from the thin edge of unbeing,
and have been afraid that, having
nowhere else to go, I would
on purpose, accidentally,
fall in, and simply fall and fall
forever, since unbeing has
no floor; and have been rescued,
and been certain of my rescuer,
and have again felt almost-solid
earth beneath my feet; when I
had given up on earth and sky
and sun and rain and comfortable
shoes and friends and weddings; having
been as good as dead, there in that
purgatory of unbreathing,
and then being turned around,
embraced, and liberated — I
believe in miracles. For everything
is living once you have been almost
dead; and all things shine, as if their
only purpose is to serve as
a reminder of that free and
infinite dependence on
the spirit who exhaled to give me
breath again.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Two of Us


There is a frightened little girl in me
who fights the good fight every minute
every day and cries herself to sleep
and I don’t comfort her enough,
but now I’m longing to enfold her;
so we sit and rock, the two of us,
and, oh, what simple strength
there is in that, and bliss.
And as I wrap my arms
around the child, it seems
as if the whole big wild chaotic
universe is sitting on my lap
surrounded by and drenched in
love. I am the archetypal mother,
crooning, soothing, weeping for
my children’s pain. But the Creator
takes my tears, as all are gathered
for a baptism of rain, sweet, tender,
healing rain that makes the iris
and the poppy and the peach tree
bloom in spring. So when we cry,
the child and I, our grief is not
in vain. Our sighing is a gentle wind,
and when we laugh the leaves dance
on the trees again.

by Mary Campbell, 2008

Sunday, September 25, 2016


 by Bud Cassiday

The writers’ group at First Central Congregational UCC has been contributing to the liturgy—components of the Sunday-morning service such as the invocation and call to worship. Bud presented the following reading on September 4, 2016. The theme for the service was “Words.”

God speaks in many languages. The Word of God can be heard when children laugh. The word of God can be heard in whispering leaves, rushing water, and distant thunder. A baby’s cry might be God speaking. A coyote’s howl in the night might be God speaking. A cold winter wind might be God speaking. The music 0f a busker on the corner playing a saxophone for coins might be God speaking. The raucous noise of an urban Saturday night might be God speaking. A hot summer breeze might be God speaking. Rattling dishes in the cupboard from an earthquake in Oklahoma oil country might be God speaking. The drip, drip, drip of melting glaciers might be God speaking. We should listen to gentle rain, and squawking geese, and honking horns of traffic jams. We should listen to wind and rain and distant thunder and music and poetry and the creative spirits we hear all around us. We should listen to sunny days and dark nights, spring mornings and winter evenings. For if we do not, we may miss those words of God.

Bud Cassiday is an artist, educator, and musician who lives in Omaha, Nebraska. View his blog or visit his website to see his paintings, read his essays, and learn about his band, "Happy Together."

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Wish You Were Here


I miss you more than I did Friday—
twice as much as Saturday.
The sky looks flat. It’s not quite blue.
The sun is slightly faded, too.
The white clouds skip along too fast
this busy, bright, coquettish, restless
afternoon that wouldn’t let me
reel it in freewheeling past
the garden gate on roller skates.
I needed time to take its measure.
Well. I can inspect it when it’s
yesterday, but then today is
in my lap, till it too races
off and joins its sisters in the
hinterlands. My darling Addy’s
party dress is wiser far than
I. It tells me: Love your life
and I’m reminded, if I don’t like
macaroons, don’t buy them. Well.
I miss you mightily, and since my
wings are resting, let us test the
only transportation left—my
teleporting nexus, which can
drop you at my door in seconds,
whereupon I’ll take you shopping,
followed by a supper for the
gods... an unpretentious little
place I patronize because it’s
celebrated for falafel—
not a favorite of mine—I’ve
yet to meet a chickpea that could
look me in the eye. But you have
such a fondness for falafel.
Equally it pleases me to
say it—that, bambino, Addis
Ababa.... Among life’s most
surprising, small, exquisite treats is
rolling words around one’s teeth like
lemon drops and savoring the
mix of flavors, sweet and sour,
a hint of salt, and not too much of
each. Well. I have designated
the ensuing twenty-four-and-
one-half hours (in case I’m running
late) YOUR DAY, commencing when you
rematerialize at eight past
six precisely. Summoning my
chariot and pilot, steering
leisurely along the scenic
route, arriving at the diner
just in time to snag a window
booth. You order your falafel;
I say Coffee, please, and hold the
chickpeas. Well. We talk a bit of
politics before we give it
up for more extraordinary
topics, such as cotton sheets and
whether angels pray for blades of
grass in clumps or singly. You say
Individually, and I
agree. We laugh like babies in a
bubble bath at everything—
Check out the natty gentlemen,
mustachioed and sporting beanies
(Yes! The sort with whirlies),
representing, we believe, the
International Convention
for the Preservation of
Anachronistic Facial Hair and
Playful Headwear L-T-D. Well.
Vastly entertained, we spend a
most relaxing evening, being
utterly at ease; without a
reason to do otherwise than
as we fancy, inasmuch as
we’ve eternity to talk,
falafel’s economical, and
best of all, imagining is
free. P.S. Did I forget to
say I miss you? Well. I do.
Exceedingly. Love,