What to do on the worst day of your life


Sit down (or fall down). Anywhere will do. 
Wherever you are, stop. Breathe. Cry. 
There is no quick fix or easy path, 
no way out but through, so sit. 
Take these words (or don’t). Take nothing 
but that which holds or calms or joins this pit
you find yourself in. Here, in this place, 
even good news can ring untrue. 
No matter what you do it won’t undo
the moments and movements that led to this. 
So sit and pray, but not artfully, beautifully.
Let your words fall apart with you. 
Shattered, tear-soaked prayers like those
from dirt or cross or grief green garden. 
Jesus won’t make this better, not if better means go away. 
He will cry with you. I will cry with you too. 
He does and I do and the grace of this day might only be 
shared tears and good food and the silence that follows why.
The over-under on your suffering is impossible to know. 
I cannot say it will all be okay. Tomorrow
may only be the second worst day; 
But that is tomorrow (of course) and this is today.
So sit or crumble or pray and take these words (or don’t).
Toss them up like glitter or else throw them away.

I forgot a pen


I forgot a pen when I walked out

here to the garage where I write. 

Too many books than I could read,

my underused notebook, and no pen. 

The room smells of mildew and furniture polish. 

There is insulation on the rug under my desk,

dropped from the ceiling by some foraging creature. 

The whole room needs a good wash

and I need a pen. 

It might be wasted effort to clean a room

that stays dirty. Futile. Never-ending. 

Turns out I have a pen tucked

in an outside pocket of the heavy coat I wear

when I sit out here with the creatures and dirt

and cold in this garage to write.

On the shortness and uncertainty of human life


“O God, whose days are without end, and whose mercies cannot be numbered: Make us, we pray, deeply aware of the shortness and uncertainty of human life…” (Book of Common Prayer, pg. 504)

There are no good words for
our collective destination. Apart
from tragic, untimely, too soon.
The wound at the heart of the world.
Another angel added; a road well walked.

Words won’t do now, not for this.

The living bear all the grief of those who
were and are and will one day die.
Our plans, kingdoms, minds fall flat
before the period at the end of each line.
We don’t hold the pen, our days will end.
Where then is mercy? Whither hope?

In the beginning was the Word
and the Word wept

for the world, for you, for untimely,
and too soon. The Word weeps still
with sea-born tears that wash over
again, again with each new sentence end.

The mercy is presence not relief.
Hope is a face, two hands, scarred feet.
A quiet stand at the doorway and entry in
to a place where to end is only to begin.

What If I Amount To Nothing?


What if I amount to nothing
And come to the end with empty hands?
No podium standing or trophy toting or
Byline, book-bound, crown-found meaning?

What if I am only a creature or object —
A lesson in futility, misplaced effort,
Humility lost and found and lost again.

Perhaps I cannot be optimized. What if
I accomplish nothing more than breath?
What will I be if I become only this, only me?
Flesh and bone filled with grace, drenched in mercy.

This is not a race and you cannot win.
All has been given and given and given.
It is given again each morning, each moment.
No scorecard in sight, no throne (save one).

What if I amount to nothing
And come to the end with empty hands?
It will be enough.


This poem was first published at Mockingbird (www.mbird.com).