Where is the line between prayer and poetry?  It’s blurred more often than not.  This is why I love Pinsky, Heaney, the Romantics. That very ambiguity is delicious.  I love how my pagan gods hide beneath the rhythms of secularism.

Today, I’d like to share one of my favorite poems by Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky.  It’s a wheel poem, a harvest poem, and a musing on cycles, family, and ancestors.  Read it aloud, and taste the words, feast on sounds as they tumble and circle each other. Enjoy.

Robert Pinsky

Stone wheel that sharpens the blade that mows the grain,
Wheel of the sunflower turning, wheel that turns
The spiral press that squeezes the oil expressed
From shale or olives. Particles that turn to mud
On the potter’s wheel that spins to form the vessel
That holds the oil that drips to cool the blade.

My mother’s dreadful fall. Her mother’s dread
Of all things: death, life, birth. My brother’s birth
Just before the fall, his birth again in Jesus.
Wobble and blur of my soul, born only once,
That cleaves to circles. The moon, the eye, the year,
Circle of causes or chaos or turns of chance.

The line of a tune as it cycles back to the root,
Arc of the changes. The line from there to here
Of Ellen speaking, thread of my circle of friends,
The art of lines, chord of the circle of work.
Radius. Lives of children growing away,
The plant radiant in air, its root in dark.


Trailing stiff fingers across seeping sandstone,
deeper and deeper into the thrumming earth.
Beneath the sacred hill, down, down, down, plunging
in spiral darkness.

Empty corridors shining with fae fire,
Slipping faster, flowing emptiness surrounds
times before, drifting ghosts across root and rock
show clear memory.

Learning more, travel’s harder, words choking.
Reading, absorbing, mind getting cotton-stuffed,
mental obesity, over-indulgence
in academic bloat.

Right action traded for righteous sloth slowly
blocks the tor-tunnels. Bookcases line Gwynn’s halls,
scroll after scroll, book after tome, dust choking
between deadened leaves.

Shove, shred effortlessly-accumulated
avalanches, begging for clarity.
Trade gifts of intuition for book-knowledge,
Pay a heavy price.

Ash-bright fingers brush mine, pull me free with a
rustling pop. Why do you children rive and slay
experience for stacks of plied symbols? Blackened
eyes crease, not unkind.

Seek the heart-songs, sing them strong.
Dance the dreaming, trailing magic in your wake.
Hold close the fire until it burns your mind
to ash and dust motes,

purging hollow wisdom for brighter knowledge.
Forsake the deadly seduction of cyphers.
Sever, sunder, wrack, rend, tear without mercy
lies clutched too long.

Wild Truth-shaper, rise! Brand the blood of your tribe
in memory’s dance, knotting wyrd as you will.
Flight born of anguish, but so sweet is its draught.
Hunt with me and soar.

Tree Twin Lament

Needles cramp my hand, writing your sap out of my blood.
Me, born in screaming winter depths; you, planted come spring.
Roots garroting themselves in a too-small plot of soil,
Until trunk wounds seep amber with cankerous infection.
Arbor(su)icide or accident of circumstance?
Frenetic meat-monkey, my escape proved too easy.
Love, did you choke on my pain until I could fly free?



Our Lady of the Bathtub

Standing under the streaming spray of the shower head,
Devotion pours over steam-pinked skin.
Warmed by salamanders curled deep in the pipes,
Fire and water cleanse and comfort.
Lady of the Healing Well, Brigid of the Sacred Flame,
Take my tears, cradle my heart,
Here, in your most humble of holy places.

She stands, arms gently open,
A cement shell, pale blue, at her back.
“Our Blessed Lady of the Bathtub” my mother derided.
I wish my gods were so familiar.

Our gods are everywhere.
Why are yours trapped in cathedrals?
Grand no doubt, but aren’t they lonely
When the great double door glide shut
Against the human misery gathered at their feet?
Against the gods of the world outside?