Advent Crows – a poem

Advent Crows

Cawing, keening crows
loud overhead on the bike path;
inky silhouetted flock
against deep indigo sky,
twilight of Advent.

Lift, turbulence, beating wings;
cacophony in whorled air
become, somehow, invitation to
envelopment in mad feathered flight,
toward hidden social roost.

Memory of Colville’s Seven Crows
gliding in captured stillness
toward some opaque future,
encircled viewer drawn
forward in uncertain landscape,

or foreboding of Cyclist and Crow,
detailed symmetry in acrylic,
anonymous rider enamoured with
jet-black, prominent corvid
following or leading where?

Continue reading

Telling the truth about our lives #Bach #Zagajewski

My latest column in the Christian Courier.


Some years ago, I was introduced to a remarkable piece of music composed by JS Bach—the fifth movement of his Partita in D minor for solo violin (called the Chaconne). As with so many of Bach’s works, the Chaconne easily captures your heart; it has a way of lodging itself in mind and imagination. The piece is by turns pained and playful; dissonant and melodic. It sometimes rushes on almost to the point of stumbling and at other times strides smoothly towards its resolution.

At the heart of the Chaconne is a mystery that may go some way to explaining its compelling nature. The German musicologist Helga Thoene has suggested that it contains a hidden numerical code that references Bach’s wife (Maria Barbara) and the year of her unexpected death. Also, that the piece is built on an intricate musical scaffolding of eleven hymns that all reference the death and resurrection of Christ and invite us to put our trust in God. The Chaconne seems to be bookended by musical echoes of a chorale by Martin Luther and the phrases “Christ lay in death’s bonds” and “Hallelujah”.

bachAs we think about the Chaconne it is important to acknowledge that we are all Romantics—we see artistic expression as tied up with our personal lives and our internal emotional landscapes. We have placed ourselves at the centre of our imaginations and it is difficult for us to conceive a world that is not self-focused in this way. Since Bach predates the Romantic period, however, it is more likely that his music points to something outside of or beyond himself; something universal, rather than something merely personal. The glory of God, the compassion of God, and the hope that is found in Christ. Continue reading

Advent Psalm (126)

Advent Psalm (126)

Weary and sleepless,
caught off guard by
racing pulse, panic, vertigo;
rare reprieve to breathe,
palpable lostness.

Heading for home,
down old Highway 6 through tears,
Aberfoyle, Puslinch, Clappison’s Corners,
steering south on automatic pilot,
college kid’s stick-shift Jetta.

Over Skyway Bridge,
past belching steelwork ugliness,
along escarpment’s familiar lines;
angled off-ramp deceleration
toward welcoming place. Continue reading

Northern Advent (poem)

Northern Advent

Scattered desiccated leaves cling to branches
against autumn’s churning winds,
resisting deciduous barrenness,
new coloured prominence of
Red Pine, Juniper, Hemlock.

Feathered, long-distant migrants
soar, flit, and fly from greyed terrain
for southern home and habitat;
wintering chickadees cache seeds
in creviced bark for hunger’s moment.

Poet’s romantic autumnal landscape
lost on those sleeping rough tonight,
rougher for indifferent wind, sleet,
and world.

Wax and wick, strike of match,
white phosphorous flare and flame, Continue reading

scars – a poem

A poem referencing the Gospel lectionary passage for this coming Sunday. John 20:19-31.


Running blind ‘round a corner,
Robber to a cop in hot pursuit,
Forehead meets half-opened door;
Pain, dizziness, trickle of blood.

Childhood memory is borne in the body,
Fibrous tissues heralding past pain,
Scar as locus of life’s hurt and healing.

Boyhood hands whittle a branch,
Releasing bark, sharpening to a point.
“Always away from you,” momentarily forgotten,
Jackknife jumps, slices skin, hits bone.  Continue reading

poem for palm sunday



Time-pressed sedimentary, igneous, metamorphic rocks
Burst with anticipation that, human voices stayed,
Their moment of unlocked eloquence and
Soaring speech might finally arrive.

But vocal chords reverberate with ancient choruses,
Embodying praise for earth divinely imagined, given,
Gathering sentiments of quartz, kingfisher and crocodile:
Hosanna! King! Saviour!


Impossible words, these,
An unlikely thing, this,
For ears untrained, minds unprepared,
Hearts hardened and unremitting in (un)generous doubt.

We would muzzle rocks,
And mock too-easy faith and hope,
Unless our own in human ingenuity unleashed,
In mean and method, device and digital tomorrow.


Whisper of fabric, cloaks lifted again across shoulders,
Palms tossed aside, withering echo of a song.
He silently surveys ancient bricked courtyards,
Seeking in crack and crevice, faithfulness and mercy.

Disappointment and departure,
Reculant in sad reversal of pomp and procession,
Bethany re-christened ‘disappointment,’
Thud of stone over Lazarus’ grave.


Resistance is ours only,
ultimacy not granted to our ‘no’,
flintlike, his face,

     three days

Night Running (a new poem) #NDG


Rhythmic stride and drumming feet
as dark descends on west-end street;
cicadas drone through August night,
humid air stays fullest flight.

Windows cranked to widest aperture,
invite a breeze to ease the temperature;
glistening brows and clammy skin
beg hint of breath, reprieve to win.

Floodlit bocce at Layton Park,
murmured conversation against the dark;
collared shirts and graying heads,
enjoyment ease in old world’s stead.

Public pool its waters calm,
in daylight hours a cooling balm;
echoes of laughter splashing zest,
diving kids now in bed to rest.

Darkened lane, air-conditioner’s thrum,
cloisters of coolness against nature’s hum;
whispering growling friendships of night
thwarted by windows now shut and sealed tight,

though living rooms blaze with blinds open wide,
and running voyeur gets a look inside;
not much to see that says much at all,
flickering screens keeping families in thrall.

Schools and churches dim and locked tight,
silent old beacons of learning and light,
old as the neighbourhood, much older still,
leading by fits and starts into goodwill.

Coronation to Somerled, turning to home,
by neighbour’s old Charger glinting with chrome;
legs tired, knees sore as I slow now to walk,
life’s always lived in the length of a block.

Anxiety (a new poem)


An old acquaintance appears with-
out invitation, under the radar,
fastening invisible hands on heart
and throat – salvo in ongoing war.

Disorienting deja-vu says I’ve been here
before, but “here” is lost and adrift;
familiar faces somehow out of reach,
with utter otherness imbued.

Greet this friend, enemy – refuse to
fight in a contest that only can be lost;
give an inch and he’ll take a mile,
every resource necessarily exhaust.

Clichéd sweaty palms and pounding
heart capture it, but also cannot;
one moment holds agitation and distress,
a cup running over with panic,

residue of fight or flight in a world of
passing threats and impossible leisure,
quaking hands and restless eyes
bespeak a fear of life’s erasure.

A cross not taken up or chosen,
neither a path walked with intention;
only inarticulate hope this blackness
somehow shares his death, beaten;

a battle of inches and seconds remains,
strategies multiplying succeeding failing,
the adversary somehow best ignored.
Fight by laying down all weapons.

Monday Sabbath (a new poem)

Monday Sabbath

The preacher lives a Monday Sabbath
as the world rushes to the quotidian;
the city-bus groan, office politics,
classroom chaos, breakfast to go.

Resist the voice that insists on
Refuse the myth of indispensability,
lie that dies slowly,
deserving a quick burial,

Roll from bed into a day rife with
possibilities neither created nor
imagined – only to be received.

Pages of non-fiction delight and enliven –
Pastoureau’s The Colour of our Memories.
Tomato seedlings cry for planting, for
fresh air, for freedom to extend roots.
The camera begs to be taken up to capture
and be questioned by a living world.

Only see and hear and touch and receive.

The preacher lives a Monday Sabbath,
and suddenly knows whereof he speaks.