Monday, June 5, 2017

Ordinary Time


Morning is a swimming pool,
Deepest blue,
Newly replenished,
Chilled overnight,
Rippling gently.
Floating water molecules
Waft fragrant.

Ice cube splashing into a glass,
I dive, do six laps,
Six laps more,
This time backstroke,
Right arm, left arm,
Gazing upward at a cloudless sky,
Protective bubble
Swatting back
Solar radiation—
Stroke, stroke, stroke—
Glide forward, turn,
Push the wall,
Exhaling underwater
Necklaces, carbonated,
Feeling flushed, exhilarated.

No one else here,
I am first one in.

Only turbulence, spume generated by
Slashing arms, windmill,
Churning legs, waterwheel.
V-shaped wake, widening,
Tracks a streamlined hull, torpedo
Guided by black tiles, laser
Aimed at white tiles, target.

Beneath the surface tumult,
Water, transparent backwards, forwards,
Tranquil as a pipe
Fuming wispy aphorisms
Or dolphins wondrously examining
Mirror images of themselves
Slightly distorted
By visual deformations,
Akin to optical effects wrought by
Heat waves rising above
Desert stretches, or
Asphalt roads, disappearing.

Deeper, stiller,
Clearer, cleaner,
Keener, wiser.

Touching the wall,
I stop, pop my head
Above water,
Bobbing ball,
Dripping like a dog,
Mermaid undulating
Sine waves, low amplitude,
Alive, lightning,
Thunderously huffing,
Euphoric, inflated,
Rising, happy balloon.

Life is water—
Cold, fresh, clean.


Dark-headed coffee is a keen companion
Of depth and wit,
Finely calibrated scientific instrument.

Swinging his censer just below my nostrils,
He slays my logic with perfume.
“What crow has stolen your words?”

He asks. “Has your eloquence
Turned into baubles in his nest?”
I pay no attention to the ribbing.

He is too valuable a vizier.
I mine gold every morning.
I take my breakfast like a king—

To my right salted fish,
To my left steaming rice,
Fresh egg is the jester.

Butter, a bird, is eyeing the bread.
Milk dives smoothly into coffee.
Sugar disappears, memory of a dream.

A cock crosses swords with the day.
Things to do arrange themselves,
Tallest to shortest.

Digesting a bolus,
I rise ready to run the next marathon,
Wakeful as a bat, electric as a hawk.

Tree Sparrow

Chirps scatter…
You, slight, alight,
Switch your head,
Hop, swivel,
Tuck your arms tight,
Preen, puff, shiver…
Burst in flight,
Bullet of feathers, wings, tail—
Prodigy of creation,
Breathless creature
So frail.

Eurasian tree sparrow


The sky is clarity,
The wind, perfume,
You, a comely valley
In a sunlit room.

The sun arranges flowers
Along a window sill.
Your vine ascends, curling
About an iron grill.

Rooms by the Sea (1951) by Edward Hopper


The words of a rainy day
Drift incessantly, sighing.
Clouds wander about, homeless.
Soughing water vanishes.

The earth melts, insensate.
Shiny rocks rise in assembly.
Silence bends a strong arm.
Belief sits, quiet as bread.

Mystery and Melancholy of a Street (1914) by Giorgio de Chirico

Is There No Balm in Gilead?

“You’re allergic to coffee,” the specialist says.

I had been wondering about those skin rashes—roseate, swollen, itchy.
I thought I had been bitten by a tarantula.

Blister clusters filled with aqueous liquid,
They popped painfully.

Morbidly, I had imagined I was leprous, beseeching
St. Damien of Molokai to deliver me.

“Take this pill after breakfast, this one twice a day.” He adds,
“Apply this cream after your bath.”

Pausing as if to ponder the fallibility of medicine,
“Come back to see me after two weeks.”

I muse that capricious Nature would be tamed
By Science, no less, methodical knife

That is as much the geyser of serendipity
Or Providence’s boon as it is purported genius.

I console myself that descending clouds
Hide blessings. Afflictions work miracles…

A broken leg is the first step of a spiritual journey…
An ambitious man turns into a holy fool…

A widow in penury transforms into a horn of plenty.
Reversals abound. A bold man serves lepers,

Is himself ravaged by leprosy—blamelessly, ostensibly.
His pustules and ulcers, like rutted soil,

Bear fruit, nourishing ears of generosity, sweet stalks
Of charity, miracles wrought by the dying.

Hapless in life, he works miracles after death…
A woman prays to the saint, her cancer vanishes.

Turning a corner sharply, a nurse, smartly pressed,
Head-to-toe white, pushes a wheelchair, smoothly gliding. Riding,

Unshaven, a befuddled old man wrapped in a moist bathrobe.
Fronting the glass doorway, his limousine pulls up, gleaming.

He rises, his back twisted, a drooping flower.
Drooling, his head bobs uncontrollably.

Pierced by unspeakable mystery, wounded, stricken bird,
I shuffle outside, sky neither gray nor blue.

Sighing, “I guess I’ll have to drink tea instead.”

Head of an Old Man in a Cap (c. 1630) by Rembrandt van Rijn


Snake swallows frog.
Marten bites snake.
Snake coughs up frog.
Snake wriggles free.
Frog swims away.
Frog snares dragonfly.
Frog swallows dragonfly.
Snake goes hungry.
Marten goes hungry.
Frog is gratified.

Pine marten


  1. Credits - original publications:

    “Prime,” Thought Notebook (April 9, 2015)

    “Breakfast,” Anak Sastra, Issue 22 (January 30, 2016), pages 63-64

    “Tree Sparrow,” Eastlit (August 1, 2015)

    “Waiting,” The Furious Gazelle (April 28, 2015)

    “Melancholy,” Turk’s Head Review (December 29, 2014)

    “Is There No Balm in Gilead?” Poydras Review (April 20, 2015)

    “Documentary,” Switchback, Issue 2016, Volume 12



    The rhythm of the liturgical seasons reflects the rhythm of life with its celebrations of anniversaries and its seasons of quiet growth and maturing.

    Ordinary Time, meaning ordered or numbered time, is celebrated in two segments: from the Monday following the Baptism of Our Lord up to Ash Wednesday; and from Pentecost Monday to the First Sunday of Advent. This makes it the largest season of the Liturgical Year.

    In vestments usually green, the color of hope and growth, the Church counts the thirty-three or thirty-four Sundays of Ordinary Time, inviting her children to meditate upon the whole mystery of Christ–his life, miracles, and teachings in the light of his Resurrection.

    If the faithful are to mature in the spiritual life and increase in faith, they must descend the great mountain peaks of Easter and Christmas in order to “pasture” in the vast verdant meadows of tempus per annum, or Ordinary Time.

    Sunday by Sunday, the Pilgrim Church marks her journey through the tempus per annum as she processes through time toward eternity.




    As a keen observer of human nature, Francis saw that people tend to imagine doing great things for God, while missing all the little, everyday ways they can please him. See if any of these sound familiar: “putting up with people’s moods and troublesome behavior, gaining victory over our own moods and passions, renouncing petty preferences, honestly acknowledging our faults, keeping our souls in peace.”

    Even though Francis wrote hundreds of years ago, some of his advice seems especially insightful today. For example, he said to “accept the duties which come upon you quietly, and try to fulfill them methodically, one after another.” If you attempt to do everything at once, “you will probably be overwhelmed and accomplish nothing.” You’d think Francis is addressing our twenty-first century penchant for overscheduling, multi-tasking, and stressing out about all that we have to do!

    Also relevant and especially insightful is Francis’ belief that “apart from sin, anxiety is the greatest evil that can happen to a soul.” When our hearts are troubled, he explained, we lose our peace and calm judgment and become more susceptible to temptation. We are like birds caught in nets, fluttering about wildly trying to escape and entangling ourselves even more. As he told someone, “What are you anxious about? All that matters is that [God] is with you, and you with him.” Since I tend to be a worrier, I like to imagine Francis saying those words and reassuring me by his own peaceful, gentle nature that it is possible to be worry-free.

    Source: Patricia Mitchell, “Why I Love St. Francis de Sales: He Makes the Spiritual Life Seem Do-able,” The Word Among Us 28, no. 5 (Lent 2009), p. 71.

    Ordinary time, ordinary life.


  4. Photo credits

    “Swimming pool” link:

    “Runner” link:

    “Eurasian tree sparrow” link:

    Courtesy of Stefan Berndtsson

    “Sad dog” link:

    “Pine marten” link:

    Courtesy of Futurilla



    These periods of liturgical Ordinary Time are to remind us that it is in and through our ordinary days that we live out the mystery of our salvation.

    Most of us live ordinary lives with ordinary days in which we know our best and our worst self and everything in-between. We have our days when, with a bounce in our step, we are able to bring joy, patience, and gratitude to others, and days when we need hope, trust, and a forgiving heart to put one foot in front of the other. It is in these ordinary days that the extraordinary mystery of God’s faithful love accomplishes saints-in-the-making.


    I began to see that people are not in the way of God, they are the way to God. The more emphasis I put on my relationships with other people, the more connected to God I began to feel.

    ...I have written enough about my ordinary life to know beyond the shadow of a doubt that it is infused with mystery, drama, and meaning. ...I have discovered that it is only when I allow myself to sink fully into my own human experience that I finally find the face of God.