So The Moon Would Not Be Swallowed - Award Of Merit (2008) The Word Guild

<i>So The Moon Would Not Be Swallowed</i> - Award Of Merit (2008) The Word Guild
A poetic journey with the poet's missionary grandparents to the China they served in between 1923 and 1951. CHECK OUT THE REVIEWS OF BOTH BOOKS (below)

Monday, November 26, 2007


Cercis Siliquastrum

From within the alabaster skull of a man
better off unborn
throbs the pressure of regret
The hand that dipped into the bags
--------that dipped bread in the dish
--------that reached for bloody stars
now scatters to the ground a silver constellation
for the burial of aliens
& strangers

Too late --No return --Too late
The garden’s salty kiss of blood
stains his lips --ripe
like Zechariah’s prophesy
as the spikenard of devotion --He grasps
for consolation in the word friend
Bloody blossoms hang
from the cursed Judas Tree

(This poem first appeared in Studio)

Friday, October 26, 2007


Finally --war is over
trains are running
mail’s coming through

“I cried for joy over your precious letters”
so many letters & the latest
Good Housekeeping (March 1926)

Her “most pressing need” now is help with Marie
Spend more time with your child --her reading says
Take her for walks away from the usual

But there’s so much teaching to do
& walks are taboo --The beach is horrible
with blood & memory of war

The beheaded & shot were buried in sand
but dogs will be dogs
in China as elsewhere

(This poem first appeared in Grail)

Saturday, September 22, 2007


If seeing is believing --how do we see beyond
mountain ranges of cloud --in mountainless
beyond sailing ships sinking below the horizon
into the depths? --Our language shimmies
awkwardly ignoring our knowledge
of receding glaciers & rising suns

We believe what we do not at first understand
The meaning of crimson creeping across
the extent of a leaf --the depth of turquoise
in a mountain lake --Seeing is believing
they say --although we know
colour happens within our perception

Were John’s senses sufficient to comprehend
what he saw --when he saw the One who was
& is --& is to come --surrounded
by seven lampstands --holding a fistful of stars?
Was his vision a poem within living experience
granting a depth we wouldn’t otherwise know?

Believing is seeing --such as when the outline
of the house you know is there materializes
from the snowstorm’s depths to save your life
An act of prayer will contribute to healing
they say --giving substance to things hoped for
though unseen as through frosted glass

(This poem first appeared in Crux)

Sunday, August 26, 2007


Twenty four wire spokes --evenly spaced
carefully tightened --so the weight smoothly shifts
like lines of longitude spinning us through
another amazing day

Commonplace magic --is still magic
even when feet push pedals as thoughtlessly
as they step --(the arch curving as on a ladder’s
every movement as precise as fingers on keys
automatically playing a minuet

It is the mystery of physicality
the way the body accepts mechanical limbs
& the mind absorbs experience
A cyclist is a new creation
an earth-tethered bird --or waterless swimmer
making all things new

The kingdom of heaven is like a cyclist
rolling through an imbalanced world
No matter how common our perception
every spring --(our tilted axis coming around)
another child straddles the wonder
without training-wheels

(This poem first appeared in Wascana Review)

Monday, July 16, 2007

Poem: WIND

for G.K. Chesterton

The child in my arms
watches wind
stir leaves & draperies
He’s learning what is real

He’s no language
for breeze --or breath --or spirit
This nebulous trembling
hasn’t crept as close as other familiar movements
a wagging pendulum --or the tumble
of his mother’s hair towards him

We learn wind is just wind through naming wind
We speak of wind --as our parents
& their parents --spoke of wind
Although this wild & startling world
won’t explain itself --the dust returns
to its consistent settling after every storm

The child in my arms
watches --& wants to understand
Although there’s more than he’ll know
he’s learning to be at home here

(This poem first appeared in Rock & Sling)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


“ puts our being as men and women in touch with that which transcends the sayable, which outstrips the analysable.” — George Steiner, Real Presences

Explain the flight of the Great Blue Heron
not in terms of aerodynamics
but in relation to morning fog --to rippling lake
Imagine a dove descending & a voice from heaven
proof only to those who need none

Think how a string quartet says so much
like waves on the Lake Manitou shore
matching the music of rooftop rain
in our waking minds --like David’s harp
soothing Saul’s madness

Mythology weaves a song so beautiful
sailors forget themselves
forget to eat --forget they’re vulnerable
on rocks --Unimaginable
to those who’ve not felt it

Sing your jealousy to a nightingale
of her oblivion of weariness
fading into night
Sing your envy to a waterfowl
of her wise way on the pathless coast

Follow the flight of ravens to Kerith
where Elijah drinks from the brook
until it sinks in sand
like a half-remembered melody
fading in time

(This poem first appeared in Perspectives)

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


God told Abraham --Kill your son for me --& they
climbed Mount Moriah so there would be a great
distance of rock cloud shadow & light to be sliced in
two --& the perplexing covenant might come to
-----mind as
you stare toward the blue horizon

The knife seems to fall forever
as Abraham (looking like an old man Rembrandt
frequently sketched) palms the bound youth’s face
with a large determined hand to shield him from the

The knife seems to fall forever
giving you time to think of bloody Passover --of
as sacrificial lamb --of what kind of god would ask
much --& what kind of father could do it (as a
windblown angel seizes the old man’s wrist)

Then you notice the eyes --bloodshot & observant
of a ram caught in a thicket --This is no happy
Three centuries after Rembrandt
the knife still falls

(This poem first appeared in Christianity & Literature. Unlike my previous posts, this is not from my chapbook)

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Poem: THE MISSION HOUSE---------------(Lunar New Year 1948)

Shangjao, Kiangsi, China

When I saw Shangjao for the first time --the
-----mission house was clearly visible
over the city wall --& Spirit Mountain to the north
-----stood out in the afternoon sun
my train clacking to the end of the line

Lost trains echo through the compound’s central
confused among the porticos as though looking for -----the tracks
to Nanchang --destroyed by war

Drums now pick up the rhythm --as we watch
-----from the window of our room
We were wakened the other night here by a
-----creeping rat seeking winter stores
Now the fiery serpent crosses the tracks
-----creeping --like the plague

Down below lies the bomb that damaged the
-----corner of the house
As we watch from the window of our room the
-----lantern parade winds down toward the city
Drums beating --beating --beating --from all
-----directions at once

(This poem first appeared in Canadian Literature)

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Poem: LUNAR ECLIPSE (June 1928)

Yencheng, Honan, China

On Sunday evening as darkness crept in
the people rushed out
with gongs
-----& pots
----------& anything to make noise
to scare the heavenly dog
that slowly
-----very slowly
----------ever so slowly
had placed its jaws about the moon

They persisted in their din --it was said
so the moon would not be swallowed
& leave them in the dark --forever

(This poem first appeared in Windsor Review)