Click here to see all of the poems in The 55 Project.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Poem 033

from Paradise Lost

(V, 822-824, and 836-848)

Shalt thou give law to God, shalt thou dispute
With him the points of liberty, who made
Thee what thou art, and formed the pow'rs of heav'n...
As by his Word the mighty Father made
All things, ev'n thee, and all the Spirits of heav'n
By him created in their bright degrees,
Crowned them with glory, and to their glory named
Thrones, Dominions, Princedoms, Virtues, Powers,
Essential Powers, nor by his reign obscured,
But more illustrious made, since he the head
One of our numbers thus reduced becomes,
His laws our laws, all honour to him done
Returns our own. Cease then this impious rage,
And tempt not these; but hasten to appease
Th' incensèd Father and th' incensèd Son,
While pardon may be found in time besought.

John Milton of London, England is best known for his great epic Paradise Lost (1667). Visit Kingdom Poets to find out more.The selection above is in the voice of a Seraph named Abdiel, who is rebuking Lucifer for his "impious rage". The final line quoted reflects Isaiah 55:6.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Poem 032

The Poet Reflects on Isaiah, Chapter 55

A public-service announcement that begins
with the word Ho! I like that.
And free groceries—no food stamps, even.

Also the soundtrack: hills that sing,
myrtle and cypress that applaud
while I down my milk and bread and wine.

But the glorified truth of it all
is I don’t quite trust it—not as national policy.
Soon everyone else will be showing up

and wanting some, and that gets thorny.
(We’ve been over this!) My thought, anyway.
Forgive me if I’ve worded things incorrectly.

Paul Willis of Santa Barbara, California is the author of three poetry collections, the most recent being Say This Prayer Into The Past (Poiema Poetry Series/Cascade Books). He is the former Poet Laureate of Santa Barbara, and is Professor of English at Westmount College. Visit Kingdom Poets to find out more about him.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Poem 031

from Goblin Market

Morning and evening
Maids heard the goblins cry:
“Come buy our orchard fruits,
Come buy, come buy:
Apples and quinces,
Lemons and oranges,
Plump unpeck’d cherries,
Melons and raspberries,
Bloom-down-cheek’d peaches,
Swart-headed mulberries,
Wild free-born cranberries,
Crab-apples, dewberries,
Pine-apples, blackberries,
Apricots, strawberries;—
All ripe together
In summer weather,—
Morns that pass by,
Fair eves that fly;
Come buy, come buy:
Our grapes fresh from the vine,
Pomegranates full and fine,
Dates and sharp bullaces,
Rare pears and greengages,
Damsons and bilberries,
Taste them and try:
Currants and gooseberries,
Bright-fire-like barberries,
Figs to fill your mouth,
Citrons from the South,
Sweet to tongue and sound to eye;
Come buy, come buy.”...

Christina Rossetti of London, England is one of the most celebrated female poets of the nineteenth century. Visit Kingdom Poets to find out more.The refrain "Come buy, come buy" contrasts the invitation by God to his people in Isaiah 55:1. This 567-line narrative poem (written in 1859) tells the tale of a woman who risks her life to save her sister from the spell of the goblins' fruit. Symbolism may be seen in the poem relating to Eden, and to Christ's sacrifice and the imagery in the sacrament of Communion.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Poem 030

The Myrtle Calls

The whispering Word ripples across
A withered world: endlessly
Yearning days, weeks,
Months, years,
Promises wallowed in accumulated grime surface into memory
And harmonize with dust-cracked lips.
Champagne rivers sprout in Jerusalem;
Just beyond this threshold
They christen a new Eden.
Come in!
Echoing crags sing out for you to echo
The echoed beat of trees now clapping
With fruited joy for you.
Go out!
See Zion’s garden walls stretching beneath the overflow,
Rolling forward before the surge.
Why linger in the rapidly surrendering waste
Until the blanketing streams seam Earth in,
You out?
One crypt split once
To snap this garden’s gate.
Now clinging to its frame, I cry:
Just look!
The door stands

Bryn Phinney of Redstone, Colorado was a member of the original Festival Circle at the Festival of Faith & Writing where this project was first introduced. She is a writing major at Wheaton College in Illinois. "The Myrtle Calls" echoes from Isaiah 55: 13.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Poem 029

Hurrahing in Harvest

Summer ends now; now, barbarous in beauty, the stooks rise
----Around; up above, what wind-walks! what lovely behaviour
----Of silk-sack clouds! has wilder, wilful-wavier
Meal-drift moulded ever and melted across skies?

I walk, I lift up, I lift up heart, eyes,
----Down all that glory in the heavens to glean our Saviour;
----And eyes, heart, what looks, what lips yet give you a
Rapturous love’s greeting of realer, of rounder replies?

And the azurous hung hills are his world-wielding shoulder
----Majestic — as a stallion stalwart, very-violet-sweet! —
These things, these things were here and but the beholder
----Wanting; which two when they once meet,
The heart rears wings bold and bolder
----And hurls for him, O half hurls earth for him off under his feet.

Gerard Manley Hopkins was living in Dublin, Ireland at the time of his death in 1889, where he taught at University College. In retrospect, Hopkins is one of the most important poets of the 19th century, even though most of his poems were not published within his own lifetime. Visit Kingdom Poets to find out more. The "hurrahing" in the title "Hurrahing in Harvest" is thought to derive from Isaiah 55:12.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Poem 028

All the Trees of the Field Will Clap Their Hands

If I am alive this time next year
Will I have arrived in time to share?
Mine is about as good this far
I'm still applied to what you are
And I am joining all my thoughts to you
And I'm preparing every part for you

I heard from the trees a great parade
And I heard from the hills a band was made
Will I be invited to the sound?
Will I be a part of what you've made?
And I am throwing all my thoughts away
And I'm destroying every bet I've made
And I am joining all my thoughts to you
And I'm preparing every part for you

Sufjan Stevens of Brooklyn, New York, is a singer-songwriter. Along with his step-father he founded Asthmatic Kitty Records, through which his music is released and the music of such artists as The Welcome Wagon and My Brightest Diamond. "All the Trees of the Field Will Clap Their Hands" lifts out of Isaiah 55:12, and appeared on his fourth CD Seven Swans.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Poem 027

Waiting in Line at the Bread Alone Café, I Consider Isaiah

Behind the counter, baskets
heap with loaves: honey wheat, rustic white, focaccia,
peasant rye, oatmeal with walnut and cranberry.
I want a slice of each, toasted,
buttered. I want one slice spread with red pepper or onion jam, another
set aside for sweetness. I want to see
how nuts and berries settled and rose with the dough,
how the dough palmed chunks of fruit.
I want crusty rolls, biscuits, the gold,
the dark, and I want
crumbs to scatter as the bread
opens under my serrated knife. I want life to lengthen
until I’ve tasted every variety,
and then I want a second turn.

But today I will choose
one loaf to carry home because fresh bread
persuades me to linger over breakfast as if time
opened into eternity each morning,
as if morning promised
not eternity but attentiveness, each moment’s flavor,
my absorption in it.

Lynn Domina of Delhi, New York, is the author of two collections of poetry, Corporal Works and Framed in Silence, and the editor of a collection of essays, Poets on the Psalms. She is an M.Div. student at the Earlham School of Religion, where she takes courses in the Ministry of Writing. "Waiting in Line..." rises out of Isaiah 55:2.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Poem 026

Looking Forward

after Michelangelo’s David

The seventeen-foot-high
marble giant—
unable to wear the king’s
encumbering armor—

stands naked
twisting contrapposto
—as conflicting as a guilty man
freely pardoned—

sling slung over his shoulder,
right hand clutching solid rock—
like a fortress
resistant to hammer-blows—

eyes pierce through centuries
looking at Rome—
crucifier of his Savior
fruit of his loins—

unaware that curls are coiling
a premature crown
above his ears.
Ears listening

to a promise recoiling
through the millennia
I will make an everlasting
covenant with you.

He stands silent as white—
a witness to the peoples.

Nellie deVries of Grand Rapids, Michigan is one of the members of the Festival Circle where this blog was first introduced. This is her second contribution to The 55 Project. She has authored three books for children that were published by Baker Book House. "Looking Forward" was sculpted from Isaiah 55:3, 4 & 7.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Poem 025

With, Without

It begins with a body
strapped for cash, alert
only to economies of thirst. Ends

with a body moving
to the music mountains make,
the phrasing of lakes, cloud

improvisations. The journey
is personal. Spills
occur, with or without

words like covenant, splendor.
Endowed with splendor, a body
travels light, eats well with

or without utensils, money, food. Feeds
multitudes unaware, alert only
to birds, grass,

lilies, the like. As
for those who destroy the earth,
they will be destroyed.

Brad Davis of Pomfret, Connecticut is a counselor at the Pomfret School, and has taught at the College of the Holy Cross, Eastern Connecticut State University, and the Stony Brook School. His latest poetry book is Still Working It Out (Poiema Poetry Series/Cascade Books). Visit Kingdom Poets to find out more about him."With, Without" is drawn from Isaiah 55:7. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Poem 024

Skipping Stones

Less substantial than mist
Time is too fleeting to be grasped;
Reach out your hand; the moment is already gone.

We live in the future or the past,
Where all is illusion,
And beyond our power to control or change.

Do we heed the power of our actions?
Or are we merely skipping stones across the pond of eternity;
Children playing at life as though summer will never end?

Carol Ann Chybowski of Carpinteria, California has had her work appear in A Community of Voices: An Anthology of Santa Barbara, and Spiritual Awakenings: Stories of Praise and Redemption. "Skipping Stones" comes out of Isaiah 55:6.  

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Poem 023


“An angry prayer is stronger.”—Adam Zagajewski, “Smoke”

I have been torn by illness, worn my scars
like furrows that will never again sprout seed.
I’ve shaken out the corn from the bag,
have waited for God to part the thornbushes
that imprison my plundered body at all sides.
Where is the joy that I’ve been promised?
I sweep each floor looking for its glimmer.
My days of fullness are over:  I weep
for juniper and myrtle, for clapping hands.
I search for a corner in which I can crouch,
where I’ll find a pitcher of milk, a finger of wine,
on those days when I’m tired of my parched self,
of this sickness, the scans that glow so brightly
on the screens while skies above grow dimmer. 

Anya Krugovoy Silver of Macon, Georgia is the author of two poetry collections, The Ninety-Third Name of God (2010) and I Watched You Disappear (2014), both published by Louisiana State University Press. Visit Kingdom Poets to find out more about her."Sweeping" came from her reflections on Isaiah 55:8. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Poem 022


Come, dip a scallop shell into the font
For birth and blessings as a child of God.
The living water rises from that fount
Whence all things come, that you may bathe and wade 
And find the flow, and learn at last to follow
The course of Love upstream towards your home.
The day is done and all the fields lie fallow
One thing is needful, one voice calls your name.

Take the true compass now, be compassed round
By clouds of witness, chords of love unbound.
Turn to the Son, begin your pilgrimage,
Take time with Him to find your true direction.
He travels with you through this darkened age 
And wakes you everyday to resurrection.

Malcolm Guite of Cambridge, England is the author of two recent poetry collections, Sounding the Seasons (2012) and The Singing Bowl (2013) both from Canterbury Press. He is an Anglican  priest, chaplain, teacher, poet, and singer-songwriter. Visit Kingdom Poets to find out more about him."Upstream" flows out of Isaiah 55:1. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Poem 021

The Called

I sit beneath the tree where he saw me
Planted by the rivers of water
Eating my lunch of multiplied bread and wine

I hear the spirit-rustled treetops move
And cock my head listening for the call
To get up and go wherever the wind blows

I am not a twig, nor even a fluttering leaf
But a whirligig whose joyful fall
Makes a carving place for lovers' names


Kenneth O'Shaughnessy of Simpsonville, South Carolina is a Christian of the Orthodox faith. He writes poetry, song lyrics and children's books. His latest project is Climbing the Ladder on Trochaic Feet. "The Called" comes from Isaiah 55:3 and 10-13. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Poem 020

A celebration of weeds

For I am considering, before I grow very old, too old
to drive, how gloriously the grasses ornament the road's
verges, its ditches, flowing then across the fields, waves
of green, meadows that dance to the fists of wind. Weeds,
all and every, long and lovely and lush ( Hopkins'
language rings wild on the ear). All feral stems, each
a primary act of God, sing the hymns of air, his persistent
garden in spite of our ravaging machines, resilient, needing
no fertilizer to flourish where cows crop, cool in oak shade.

The car snakes along the dirt road--a scar on the body
of earth—and now I consider yarrow, how its white, starred
cloth is draped over this next meadow. And now a low
forest of fire-weed purples through the windshield, nothing
I haven't seen before, but in this moment, extraordinary.

I am tuned to the anthem of herbs growing, a haze
of salt hay decorated with grasshoppers, those pale jade
phenomena that leap continually in God's imagination--
or brambles and thrusting blackberries, their glowing fruit
there for the taking. How his spirit animates all blades
and glades with pure daylight! How his stalks gesture
and bow, saluting themselves in the clear stream that flows
under the bridge! Clovers' trinity leaves. Buds, bursting
into their particular selves, then melted by vision into a
fusion from this generous confusion. And the dandelions,
small sunbursts on every bank, wanton and innocent,
without evil intent, uncanny in their abundance in noon
light, feeling no need to justify their existence.

And tonight, in the dark, flower heads will fold into
themselves, stems lengthen, rising after rain, or seeded
by stars and a moon as yellow as a midday buttercup.
And it is all good. All good. God said it.

Luci Shaw of Bellingham, Washington is the author of eleven poetry collections, including her newest poetry book, Scape (Poiema Poetry Series/Cascade Books). Visit Kingdom Poets to find out more. "A celebration of weeds" grew out of Isaiah 55: 9-11.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Poem 019


I come. I've been working my way to this
Since the womb. But leaving is hard,
Emptying my pockets of wallet and passport,
Leaving the bright lights, leaving the sights.

-----Pre-advent tamaracks show the way,
-----Exploding from green to gold, bursting
-----Into flares marking the way home,
-----Laying down, needle by needle, gold carpet.

I grew up on conifers,
Evergreen fir and pine and spruce.
Tamaracks are an annual surprise,

-----Opening the woods to winter light,
-----Invitation to a less that is more.
-----I loosen my grip, slow my pace, coming home.

Eugene H. Peterson of Lakeside, Montana, is professor emeritus of spiritual theology at Regent College in Vancouver. He is best known for the Bible translation, The Message (NavPress). Visit Kingdom Poets to find out more about him.The poem "Homecoming" may be found in his new collection Holy Luck (2013, Eerdmans) and came by way of Isaiah 55:1.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Poem 018

Going forth and returning

Listen carefully and eat what is good. Isaiah 55:2

My first saskatoon pie bubbles over in my oven-mitted arms.

The berries grew along our path to St. Malo beach where my daughter mixed a seaweed cure for sadness.

I know a woman who hears God speak. He showed her a sea of women, white as stone, missing souls.

As I filled my pail, a girl from the next campsite peppered me with good news: a painted turtle by the bathroom, a swallow’s nest, baby bunnies under that bush.

St. Malo’s name means “beautiful captive.”

My thoughts rise to the sheltering oaks, the falcon circling. I will never hear what moves her.

Sometimes I dream I’ve lost my way. Other times, I’m falling.

The camper before us backed over a pine sapling. My son dug it out to nurse to health outside his window.

Some teens were singing hymns around their campfire. Through the brush, I could hear the music, but the words were muffled.

My husband got sick on frozen blueberries as a child. He can’t taste the difference.

After God showed the woman the vision of stolen souls, her father sent a photo of a holocaust memorial. The faces were the same.

Some of the berries grew so deep in poison ivy only the deer and her fawn could reach them. They looked at me, but I didn’t understand the question.

Every year, my son’s pine will grow three inches.

When I was small, the church choir sang “The valleys stand so thick with corn that they laugh and sing.” My Oma pursed her lips around the valleys’ irreverence.

I left the mountain of wet beach towels and dusty sheets in the entrance to wash my berries. Preheat the oven.

My son has a bellyache and won’t eat anything but dry bread. I don’t like to eat alone.

I ring the neighbours’ bell to see if they’ll share a slice. I wonder if God told me to. Last time I gave a neighbour pie, the husband said “It’s her birthday, apple is her favourite, she’s dying.”

This time, there’s no answer.

After the woman who hears God saw the photo, she prayed for the girls in her life to know true beauty. To be free.

The rain falls on me like a word. Then a story, soaking in.

When I open my front door, my daughter is at the piano, singing “as long as thou lendest me breath” to her own tune.

The berries rush to fill the gap my first slice leaves behind.

In winter, almost all of our tiny pine will be invisible. Except the crown, pointing up.

A camp counsellor once told me the Trinity is like a pie: three equal pieces, one fluid filling.

I cannot put a finger on my soul.

Sweet juice traces a path to my chin. Repurples my tongue.

Angeline Schellenberg of Winnipeg, Manitoba, is a copy editor for the Mennonite Brethren Herald. Her poems about autism and childhood appear in Prairie Fire, CV2, TNQ, Rhubarb, Room, Geez, and The Society. "Going forth and returning", as can be seen in the epigraph, comes forth from Isaiah 55:2.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Poem 017


Riddle, rhyme, and rhythm play
to catch some and turn some away;
to forge—inscrutable the plan—
back into shape the mind of man;
to separate the wheat from tare,
the reprobate from those who care,
and think upon dark things of woe—
vast, mystic things that we should know;
embrace so freely without thought.
Things in the fiery furnace wrought.

Come to the Water as a child.
Come to the Fountain meek and mild.
All gifts of God, sacred and kept
for those who have seen Christ, and wept.

Scáth Beorh of St. Augustine, Florida is proud of his Ulster-Scot and Cherokee ancestry. He has published several books, including the novel Black Fox In Thin Places and the story collection Children & Other Wicked Things (both published in 2013). Seraphyre is, in part, forged from Isaiah 55:1.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Poem 016

Turn, Turn, Turn

Earth now turns on its axis
but soon no more—
slowly clock hands turn
like tides and seasons.

I turn to my Lord
every day made new—

to get what I need,
a clean slate that fills
with fresh and recycled sins—

for even my best days
are marred by mistakes,
decisions blurred by
various vanities.

I will live the life
I’m called to
and give what I’m given
not just keep for myself.

Yet I drink from the cup
the world gives me,
deeply as an unquenchable thirst.

He will not change my circumstances
until He changes me,
until I let Him change me.

Patrick Connors of Toronto, Ontario is the author of the chapbook Scarborough Songs (Lyricalmyrical Press, 2013). He is a manager for the Toronto chapter of 100,000 Poets for Change."Turn, Turn, Turn" comes out of Isaiah 55:7.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Poem 015


Are you inviting me? I want to come.
On a hard wooden pew, she twirled her white eyelet dress,
And clicked the buckled, white patent leather shoes.
She pined for Jesus, requested bread and wine.
Adults scold, "You're too young for this party."

Are you inviting me? I want to come.
On her banana seat, she flew down the road making a party all her own.
Sparkled handlebar tassels blew in the wind.
She breezed to the shoreline to fish out cobalt ferry glass,
Battered and smoothed by Lake Michigan.

Are you inviting me? I want to come.
On her stomach, she rested under large tented pines.
Her eyes glued to clues in Nancy Drew mysteries.
A rolled up paper tied with string, a pencil, a blanket, and water to drink.
She rested from the thorns, thistles, and prickles inside.

Are you inviting me? I want to come.
Huddled friends promised not to laugh,
If she sang aloud.
As that Carpenters' record spun
They snickered at her voice

Are you inviting me? I want to come.
She emptied her purse, gave everything,
Lavished Jesus with all she had,
Gave parties, honored friends,
Aching for love

Are you inviting me? I want to come
The shoreline rippled a beckon, deeper than thorns, thistles, and prickles,
A harboring, well within.
Come sit with me.
Bring nothing.

Jennifer Oosterhouse of Dutton, Michigan is one of the members of the Festival Circle where this blog was first introduced. Besides being a Policy Advocate for Farmers Insurance, she is a student at Cornerstone University. "Invited" is drawn from Isaiah 55:1-6.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Poem 014


Beneath the skull’s overcast dome, a Farmer plows my brainfield
----with crooked, meandering, furrows, dusty trenches thirsting
like finches freshly hatched, featherless, whose radish-resembling heads
----instinctively anticipate what host a mother’s beak may bring,
breadcrumbs, rose-buds, myrtle-sprigs, some writhing, shriveling, worm,
----want and provision erecting young necks from the nest,
its wattle fence their first exposure to faith, a forum for voicing
----psalms and complaints to the descending parent.

Like these chicks, my soil accepts whatever is planted, uncomprehended,
----blossoming sprouts up toward the sun while imaginative rains
baptize root-balls to tunnel down deep, universally feeding
----the sapling green limbs and heart-piercing thorns of figs and weeds
entangling this plot. Only the Gardener’s keen shears can cultivate
----this fated harvest- prudence blooming its womb with a promise.

Nathaniel A. Schmidt of Rockford, Michigan is an English Adjunct at Spring Arbor University. His poetry has appeared in such periodicals as Perspectives, and Windhover. "Covenantal" is forged from much of Isaiah 55, particularly verses 3, 8 and 10-13.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Poem 013


How high is higher? How wide, how deep is a thought
springing from the divine mind? The path I have chosen
winds past shady poplar, birch, gnarled oak. It is narrow
and leads occasionally past clearings: bluestem grass,
fields of three leaf aven, thorns and thistles. Half-hidden
in an aspen tree a pileated woodpecker hammers its heart out.
Chickadees and squirrels vie for seeds hikers have scattered.
A west wind stirs the air, rustles the aspen leaves. Everything
is restless, the prairie sky extravagantly blue, the forest
riddled with light, birds aflutter. The whole world stirs.
I cannot measure beauty. Nor can I count the hordes of refugees
at border crossings, nothing to eat, no water, nowhere to lay their heads,
children kidnapped, abused, abandoned, cities flattened, riots
at football games, another brutal murder in my neighbourhood.
What is God thinking? The Word, spelled out in poetry, breathed
rhythmically into the prophet’s ear? High above a vulture hovers.
The wind picks up, trees clap their branches, hills begin to hum.
If there were mountains on the prairie would they shout for joy?

Sarah Klassen of Winnipeg, Manitoba, is the author of seven poetry collections. Her most recent poetry book is Monstrance (2012), and her newest fiction book is the novel The Wittenbergs (2013), both from Turnstone Press. Visit Kingdom Poets to find out more. "Baffled" proceeds from Isaiah 55:9.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Poem 012


1. Lip Service

The word went forth
with a holy wind-----blew in
but broke off-----suddenly—
the very mouth-----charged to proclaim
clammed shut-----fallen
asleep-----dead to the world
ears-----deaf to the singing—
hard-hearted-----paying only
lip service-----to the thirsty
turned back from the waters.

they were made
to bed down-----in briers and thorns
suffer for a season
at the hands of the wicked.

2. Praise

In time-----another came
God-sent-----to witness
Truth-teller-----pronouncing sentence
while the Word teemed-----raining into
silences-----re-sounding aloud
with a gasping-----mouth
the earth cracked-----open
and the land began
to breathe-----again.

The people rejoiced
ate and drank and-----came
to know God
with a full heart
they went forth-----praising.

Margo Swiss of Toronto, Ontario teaches Humanities and English at York University. She is the author of Crossword: A Woman's Narrative, and her forthcoming collection The Hatching of the Heart (Poiema Poetry Series/Cascade Books). The source of "Covenant" is Isaiah 55.10-11.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Poem 011

No Heaven

-----------------------------Let us pause in life's pleasures and count its many tears,

Hard rain, flash floods,
green sky, ball-sized hail,
earthquake, tsunami,
bodies, bodies—

-----------------------------While we all sup sorrow with the poor;

capitalism, Marxism—
does it really matter which
to the mom who gives up her baby
to adoption, or abortion,

-----------------------------There’s a song that will linger forever in our ears;

because she can’t afford
a cup of milk, or any good book,
and can’t wait any longer for Isaiah’s
invitation to arrive?

-----------------------------Oh hard times, come again no more.

She figures it got lost in the mail,
or was never meant for her anyway.

-----------------------------There's a pale drooping maiden who toils her life away,

And the woman wrapped
in her pimp’s unending
covenant, one she didn’t ask for
when snatched, years ago,

-----------------------------With a worn heart whose better days are o'er.

from her Haitian village
amid her daily chore,
pail filled with water,
left behind, spilling out.

-----------------------------Though her voice would be merry, 'tis sighing all the day,

Displayed beneath Amsterdam’s red lights,
in a shop window,
she stands with other women plucked
from poverty’s tangled vines.

-----------------------------Oh, hard times, come again no more.

Or the man, memory of his priest’s private
part impeding his reach for the bread of life

-----------------------------While we seek mirth and beauty and music light and gay,

he craves, boy within
searching, always, for salvation.
And another boy, this one
hammering the quarry in India,

-----------------------------There are frail forms fainting at the door;

feeling as if the rocks were embedded
in his back, his arms and legs electric
with agony, his labor never satisfying
his owner, his father, himself.

-----------------------------Though their voices are silent, their pleading looks will say

O, the kidnapped girls in Nigeria—
if we can’t hear them dropping
to the ground, one by one,
like pines in a Maine forest,

-----------------------------Oh, hard times, come again no more.

does that mean they no longer exist,
or their fate is not tragic or true?

-----------------------------'Tis the song, the sigh of the weary,

Can you hear ethnic cleansing’s anthem groaning?
If we scrub people from the Earth like mildew
do the promises disappear, too?
What deliverance for the Sudanese?

-----------------------------Hard Times, hard times, come again no more.

Is there no heaven for them?
No heaven for we who devour
our processed cheese, our genetically
modified organisms, our empty, homegrown

-----------------------------Many days you have lingered around my cabin door;

headlines, distracting ourselves to the point
of everyone’s death?
Tell me, Isaiah, tell me now,
how do any of us eat what is good,

-----------------------------Oh, hard times, come again no more.

what will last? Teach us how to hear God
over all the noise—the chisel, the sword,

-----------------------------’Tis a sigh that is wafted across the troubled wave,

even the tornado’s plow
in small Cedarville, Ohio
through the century-old farmhouse,
the barns, the silos.

-----------------------------’Tis a wail that is heard upon the shore

Show us how the cries of the farmer
and his family, rising
with their roof as their once-
dependable walls fall,

-----------------------------’Tis a dirge that is murmured around the lowly grave

trapping them in the basement,
beneath the rubble of several generations,
are heard as firefighters free them,
and volunteers then work the fields

-----------------------------Oh, hard times come again no more.

to salvage what they can—
hearing aids, wedding band, Bible.

Julie L. Moore of Cedarville, Ohio is author of Particular Scandals (Poiema Poetry Series/Cascade Books). She is associate Professor of English and the Writing Center Director at Cedarville University. Visit Kingdom Poets to find out more. "No Heaven" arises from Isaiah 55:1-3, and features song lyrics from Stephen Foster.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Poem 010


My ways are higher than your ways.
Don’t spend your money on false bread;
come drink and banquet—no one pays.

Offer unheard of all your days
till now unspoken and unread.
My ways are higher than your ways.

Invited are the castoffs, strays
where poor like you would go in dread
come drink and banquet. No one pays.

Delighted, sated all your days
hunger no more, just be well-fed.
My ways are higher than your ways.

My sun shines down in pardoning rays
while you expected wrath instead.
Come, drink and banquet. No one pays.

To you who seek Me and obey
surprising mercy is ahead.
My ways are higher than your ways.
Come drink and banquet—no one pays.

Violet Nesdoly of Langley, British Columbia is the author of the 2012 novel Destiny's Child. She is a freelance writer and poet. Visit her website to find out more. The villanelle "Invitation" is a reflection on Isaiah 55:1.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Poem 009


Why not come back? The Savior
has no end save light,
no thrumming rage; music

escapes God's page, clapping
timbers steady the roof,
the muffled bell ringer's

ringing wakes the neighborhood--
Something's going on, the Festal
food is good, and free; eat, live.

Silver pipes, tallow candles
know their part; bring in your art--
What if a radiant, stained

glass window depicts you? Read through . . .
and thin lead linings
hold you almost fast?

Sandra Duguid of West Caldwell, New Jersey is the author of the poetry collection Pails Scrubbed Silver (2013) from North Star Press. For twenty years she taught literature, composition, and creative writing at colleges in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. "Invitation" comes from reflections on Isaiah 55:1-3, 6 & 7.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Poem 008

The Invitation

Come ye hither all, whose taste
-------------------Is your waste;
Save your cost, and mend your fare.
God is here prepared and dressed,
-------------------And the feast,
God, in whom all dainties are.

Come ye hither all, whom wine
-------------------Doth define,
Naming you not to your good:
Weep what ye have drunk amiss,
-------------------And drink this,
Which before ye drink is blood.

Come ye hither all, whom pain
-------------------Doth arraign,
Bringing all your sins to sight:
Taste and fear not: God is here
-------------------In this cheer,
And on sin doth cast the fright.

Come ye hither all, whom joy
-------------------Doth destroy,
While ye graze without your bounds:
Here is joy that drowneth quite
-------------------Your delight,
As a flood the lower grounds.

Come ye hither all, whose love
-------------------Is your dove,
And exalts you to the sky:
Here is love, which having breath
-------------------Ev’n in death,
After death can never die.

Lord I have invited all,
-------------------And I shall
Still invite, still call to thee:
For it seems but just and right
-------------------In my sight,
Where is all, there all should be.

George Herbert lived in Bemerton, Wiltshire, England at the time of his death in 1633, where he served as an Anglican priest. His famous book The Temple, from which this poem is drawn, was published posthumously. Visit Kingdom Poets to find out more. "The Invitation" came from Isaiah 55: 1 & 2.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Poem 007

Hide and Seek

She takes a long breath
and removes her shoes.
Between the toes of boots and slippers
it’s dusty. Long hairs have migrated
under the shoe tree and merged with
grey-coated carpet. She remembers

house dust is mostly skin, shed like snow.
Within seven years every cell is replaced.
Constant renewal. Yet we grow old. Her toe snags

a bag
of almost-ready-to-give-away clothes,
past indulgences one could almost forget,
but not quite.
The dirty things and hanging things
whisper with lingering
sweat and perfume,
the truth and the cover.

Go into your closet and pray.

Closing the door she
thinks about Holy God
kind of like a first and last name.

What does your name mean?
Hers means Graceful Lily.
Graceful Lily smiles

unable to conjure a face to go with Holy,

feels like: All heads down.
Mustn’t peek
even in the dark closet

with the door closed. Palms pressed
against her eyes,
bits of light whirl and sift
and she imagines an entry

into eternity,
shoe boxes and shelves, walls
fall away, openness reels outward,
gathering yesterdays and calling tomorrow,
the way the strike
of a church bell
announces beginnings and endings
and endless calling of the name...

Holy. Holy Holy
and nothing else seems
worth saying
so she chimes in
Holy Holy Holy and Holy


And she understands sorrow
because she is not

or even holy

and the closet is her cover.

And comfort. For a long long time…
was it time, or just being

with I AM?

She rises,
takes what she imagines to be
the hand
of the one who drove her home
on a dark night,

turns the palm up and places a kiss.
She opens the door with...

...thank you.


A few steps and she pauses,
shivers… and looks back… nah, nothing there…

…“Surely goodness and mercy will follow me…” —Psalm 23:6

Susan Cowger of Cheney, Washington is the Director of the ClearStory Gallery in Spokane. Her chapbook Scarab Hiding appeared from Finishing Line Press in 2006. She was a founding editor of the journal Rock & Sling, as was Laurie Klein. "Hide and Seek" emerges from reflections on Isaiah 55:1,6 and 12.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Poem 006

Isaiah 55:11 the word that goes from my mouth
does not return to me empty...

I am young and old and not of heaven;
My little becomes less though more is given.
A breath returns in secret thoughts of time
To a God for whose eternal mind
We are unknowing, we are dark unknown;
Somewhere he is praying to us alone,
Whose prayer is always to follow a breath
Through our burning tides of birth and death,
And we are the dark night of his deep soul,
A raw love, infinite and unconsoled.

I am young and old and not of heaven;
My little becomes less though more is given.
Breaths of my flesh, I count breaths from that fire,
Count them, respire, suspire, inspire, expire,
I count breaths of my flesh, breaths of his flesh,
Fire of my flesh, fire from him fresh,
Guttering, guttering always in time,
And never again in this world the fire of his mind.
Beyond the choices of a perfect love,
We love badly, love still, still we are loved,
Though breath is unfelt, that fire without flame,
Who has chosen never to be the same,
Or twice to love without new creation,
New fall, new prophets, new crucifixion,
To find new darkness in his darkened prayer,
The virtue of God to teach himself despair.

I am young and old and not of heaven;
His little becomes less, no more is given.
In my flesh I have breathed his last breaths,
I have counted one by one his slow deaths,
I have heard him gasp the thick syllables
Of a psalm, heard the slow bell ring knell
Upon knell in the season of his loss,
As the eyes of heaven closed on that cross,
The fire dead, the breath gone, the body cold
Heaven breathing away the broken soul.
The silence of God's prayer is agony,
In silence he is weeping bitterly,
For he cannot rejoint the twisted bones
Of Christ after Christ who must die alone,
And all his love is less than he intends:
Compassion is unbearable in the end.

I am young and old and not of heaven;
My little becomes less though more is given.
He bears alone as I could never bear
The slow duration of a weary prayer;
It goes ages in flame, ages in ash,
Recurring visions from a distant past,
The heat of breathing, the cold of time,
And his eyes more perfect if they were blind;
He pities though he may not touch the pain,
Dissolution, lives that will not come again
Into this world which alone has taught life
To the red clay, the chipped edge of the stone knife,
As the universe gave one moment
For evolution, each breath and movement,
Before the accidental mass was stirred
And only pity might recall the world.
Human pity passes, it will always end
In a distraction; it will always spend
Its force in time, though he must suffer
Without hope of time: he will remember.

I am young and old and not of heaven:
I shall live for he has known me living;
He has torn down heaven for our sake.
We shall die, we shall die, we shall never wake
In this flesh or in these bones or in this world,
But in that mind we will be remembered,
Who remembers all things, God of the living,
Our little no less for all is given.

Richard Greene of Cobourg, Ontario won the Governor General's Award for Poetry for his collection Boxing the Compass (2009). He teaches at University of Toronto, Mississauga. "Isaiah 55:11" previously appeared in Acumen Magazine, and in Richard's 1994 collection Republic of Solitude. Visit Kingdom Poets to find out more.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Poem 005


she treads the rocky path
through high desert
familiar in a distant
primeval sense

cactus and mesquite
lie in wait, claws bared
among sharp rocks
in harsh mountain terrain

drawn on by hunger
thorn-bushes scratch her underbelly
briers catch her woolly coat

following her own path
far from the Shepherd
she cries in pain

the Shepherd rescues her
replaces briers with sweet myrtle
thorn bushes with cedars and pine
quenches her thirst by still waters

led in peace, she joins the procession
mountains and hills burst into song
before her the trees
clap their hands

Irene Fridsma of Grand Rapids, Michigan is one of the members of the Festival Circle where this blog was first introduced. At last month's festival, she won an ekphrastic poetry contest; her winning poem was displayed in the Calvin College art gallery, next to the painting which inspired it. "Ensnared" grew out of Isaiah 55:12 & 13, and Psalm 23.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Poem 004


This had been a difficult week, us at cross purposes,
spring lagging behind, dragging its feet, and days
on end of steady rain. The calendar said t-shirts,
flip flops, sandals,
but we were hunched in sweaters,
stoking the fire. And then, and I know it was not
a miracle, the rain lifted, and the grass was a jolt
of electric green. The quarrel we were nursing
evaporated like morning mist, and there,
at the feeder, after years of trying—making
nectar, slicing oranges—was a pair of orioles, startling
as if the sun decided to fly down from the sky,
a flashy splash of citrus soda in my ordinary backyard.
Come all you who are thirsty, come to the waters.
You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace.

Barbara Crooker of Fogelsville, Pennsylvania is the author of four poetry collections—the most recent being Gold (2013) which I had the honour of editing for the Poiema Poetry Series (Cascade). Visit Kingdom Poets to find out more. "Passerines" takes wing from Isaiah 55:1 & 12, from which come the poem's last two lines.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Poem 003

God's Bakers

Three days a week
in rain, drought, or dark
the monks from St. Benedict, LA
drive across the thirsty waters
of Lake Pontchartrain
over the narrow causeway
that separates holy abundance
from thinning poverty
delivering loaves of bread
to those who cannot pay
exiled from their own identity
in the national void of half
way houses, shelters, nursing homes, jails.
The monks are God's bakers of grace
at no charge; they are as steady
as a covenant made with an Old Testament king.
Brother Joseph, who keeps God's books,
turns pennies from the faithful for bread
into a langniappe from God.
His old delivery van—a 1997 Chevy Astro—
goes to New Orleans packed full of bread
and returns to the monastery bursting
with the scent of myrtles.

Philip C. Kolin of Hattiesburg, Mississippi is the author of the poetry collection Reading God's Handwriting (2012). He is the Distinguished Professor in the College of Arts and Letters at the University of Southern Mississippi. Visit Kingdom Poets to find out more. "God's Bakers" rises out of Isaiah 55:1, 2 & 13.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Poem 002

Lauds in a Pocket

. . . go out in joy . . .

More alive than your average giant,
the backyard pine rocks with song.
Blackbirds, four-and-twenty? Yes,
and more: we’re talking hundreds.

Bronze needles whirly-gig down,
cabled roots creak like halyards
beneath twenty leagues of sky, the day
trilled so raptly by gleaming beaks
that one expects hymns, fanfares—
not this racket.

Curiosity reels you in: Imagine
this black-robed choir launches, as one,
and the tree weighs anchor, dragging
its mile of taproot and ivory mesh,
ground roots afloat like rigging . . .

A passing semi spits gravel,
the birds jump ship with no teamwork
or plan, just those reckless
arpeggios, iridescing across the dawn.
Pocket a feather, stride home.

Laurie Klein of Deer Park, Washington won the Predator Press Chapbook Prize for Bodies of Water, Bodies of Flesh (2004). She is also the winner of the 2007 Thomas Merton Prize for Poetry of the Sacred. "Lauds in a Pocket" is inspired by Isaiah 55:12.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Poem 001


As the rain and the snow come…watering the earth and making it bud and flourish…
so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty.

Moonlight stitches patchwork
through the deer fence onto her
snow-blanket vegetable garden.

Rain is turning to snow;
heavy clouds promise a morning of
good snow-shoeing. Three snuggle

close as she reads of a long-ago family
surviving a cold winter in a sod hut.
They kneel and say prayers, thankful

for warm beds, kiss her good-night.
Two little feet patter down stairs
with one more message. Hugging

her neck he whispers, It’s like
there’s a big blizzard, we’re lost in it,
and then God finds us,

and brings us home.
The seed
catalogue slips to the floor.

Nellie deVries of Grand Rapids, Michigan is one of the members of the Festival Circle where this blog was first introduced. She has authored three books for children that were published by Baker Book House. "Seedling" grew out of Isaiah 55:10 & 11.