Category Archives: Poetry

Small

This is the road

It is a ribbon running through the mountains

Glistening black in the rain, fading gray in the sunlight

Checked with yellow, edged in white

Swooping and diving between and around the mountains

Like a swallow homing forever.

The road carries me down into the valley

Into the shade of forest, dusky and dark,

Curving in the lowlands, trapped and winding,

Now, suddenly it flings me arching up, up, up into the heights

Floating on a ridge on the top of the world,

A patchworked world of fields and villages

Some intricate masterpiece quilted by skillful hands;

Along the sunlit crest the road flies until we twist and turn,

Turn down dizzying curves to reach the river

The brown, brown river running swollen from the rain.

The river and the road take me away, and the sun splashes

Through the canopy of wild trees, spilling flickering light on the road

As it moves along the woodlands

Past a pregnant goat grazing by the way, and a field of buffalo,

Past smoke rising gray against the blue and green,

And mountains upholding a bluing sky until a

Sudden flood of rain; and inside my pink raincoat and visor,

I become a kingdom of myself, a muffled, moving, pink kingdom.

But the rain ceases

And a sudden orange of blossoms bursts against the sodden sky

The road is not a ribbon.

It is a gray and yellow asphalt snake, and I am a beetle riding on its back.

(Inspired by my bike trip to Mae Hong Son today (and other trips similar to it)).

A rural gas station. I love places like this to fill up since you usually can have fun conversations with the owner. Photo credit: Abby Martin
Abby Martin and I on a recent trip

Kansas (Vignettes of a Journey #6)

Only in sleep I see their faces,

Children I played with when I was a child.

Louise comes back with her brown hair braided,

Annie with ringlets warm and wild. “Only in Sleep” by Sara Teasdale

Nostalgia is one of the biggest emotions that hit me when I am home. Half of my time at home, I spend reminiscing and walking around old haunts or digging through shoeboxes of letters and photos and school papers. The above poem brings a lump to my throat as I think of my past visit home.

It was a memorable visit, filled with out-of-the-ordinary happenings, not all that were nice.

After traveling home from Reach, I got sick the first week. On the last day of March, it snowed enough to cover the ground and then it all melted by noon. The next week, my nephew fell off his horse and broke his wrist and we had high winds almost every day. The following week was windy again for a few days and then we had some really warm windy weather, along with hail, rain and then again, some snow! The day before Good Friday a gas plant in Haven blew up and some people could see the flames from our area. The last week I was home we had about one nice day, and the rest were cold and windy.

I loved the snow we got, though, even when others were quite glum about it. And there were other highlights to offset the unhappy surprises. My nieces and I took a little trip one day to the library and to the Dutch Kitchen. Sara and I spent a day at a coffee shop together and I also joined her at work one day. Our family got together for Good Friday, and Mom and Dad and Sara and I went out for supper one evening. I got to help at a community sale one Saturday, attended baptism services at our church one Sunday, and listened to a school program the last evening I was home. I visited my grandma’s grave one afternoon. Most Mondays I went with Aunt Miriam to the doctor where she did lab and chemo.

Wednesday evening before I left was a perfect spring evening, and my nephew Eric, the one who had not broken his wrist, and I went horseback riding. We saw 5 turkeys, one deer, and another animal that we decided was either a coyote or a mountain lion, both of which have a tail, a tawny color and a loping run. Both of us hoped it was the latter, but we weren’t close enough to make sure. Friday before I left on Saturday, I went with Grandpa and my Aunt Miriam and Dad to the doctor. In the evening, my nephew Davon, the one who had broken his wrist, came over with his .22 youth rifle and we went bird hunting in 40 mph winds, shouting to each other over the howl. I shot at several birds and was always secretly glad that I hit none. Somehow, shooting things does not have the same appeal as it used to, but I did pray that Davon would hit something and he did.

This time, saying goodbye harder than it had been for a long time. The last two times I had been home, Covid restrictions made it complicated and difficult to travel back to Thailand, so the last few days of my time at home had been spent stressing about travel back. This time was different, with eased restrictions. It was also the first time I was home after grandma’s death. This made it harder to say goodbye to my mom, since she seemed smaller and whiter than before.

Saturday morning dawned rainy. I am always glad when it is rainy the day I leave, since it fits my mood. Before I left, I ran out to the apple tree and cut some blossoms that had just appeared overnight.

And then I left for Wichita in the middle of the endless Kansas wind.

The Hound Dog and the Tulips

There is something a soul loves about a tulip bed

Brave red warriors, fearlessly blooming

Tossed among the prairie winds and buried in snow;

I gaze from the edge and marvel at such courage,

Awed by first flash of spring.

Yet at this shrine of tulips there is another,

A more ardent worshipper than I

Who adores each day with consecrated whine.

Not worshipping from afar, or with holy expectancy,

But with sweet communion among the flowers,

(Where even I fear to tread) the ritual is completed:

Two turns and a twist, and a sigh of pure adoration

The long ears give a twitch and then– down she sinks among the glory

And from the crushed velvet red, spring rises like incense

Heavenward, and so it shall be forever,

For is this not called such — a tulip bed?

Meditations of the Aunt

For, lo, children are an Heritage of the Lord

As Arrows in the Hand of a Mighty One

Happy is he who hath his Quiver full

For they are like Olive Plants, the Offspring of Fruitful Vines;

They are the Laughter, the Promise, the Crown

The Ornament and Joy of Old Age.

But doth the Holy Writ have ought to say

Of when the Mighty Ones have Earthly Errands to perform

And leave all the Arrows and Olive Plants

To descend at once upon the Ancestral Home,

And Ought to say of the Sisters of the Fruitful Vines

That care for such a Quiver full in Times as this?

Nay, it hath Naught to say.

And despite all the Efforts on the part of such

The Arrows will ascend into Mulberry Trees,

And will splash in the Fountains on Winter Days,

And will, with great mirth, give rides in the Washing Machine.

The Olive Plants spread themselves flourishingly,

As though strengthened by the Fertilizer of Chocolate and Peppermint,

That, like Stolen Waters, were eaten in secret, and oh, so sweet;

And all cease not to question about each and every Process of this Life and the Next

Until Silence is not only golden, but more precious than Gasoline.

Then, when the Arrows have been gathered from the four Corners of the Farm

And the Quivers returned and the Olive Plants packed away

And delivered to the Homes of each respective Tribe

The Aunts with Aching Feet both lay themselves down in Peace and sleep,

Praising God that such an Heritage was not seen fit to be bestowed on them

But instead, were granted the same as Paul, and as such are at peace to abide as him.

Once Upon a Spring Wind in Kansas

Has anyone else noticed

How the wind is in a hurry today?

I asked it where it was going

But it did not deign to say.

I even asked it politely,

When it loudly slammed the door

But it would not listen to me

It only blew some more.

It shouted in the treetops

And it yelled against the pane;

It sent the emptied garbage bin

Scooting down the lane.

It blew the wash right off the line-

The sheets were fodder for the breeze-

And one of dad’s Sunday socks

Landed in the trees.

It groaned and moaned in the attic

Till we thought a man was dying;

It wailed along the windows

Like a baby’s midnight crying.

It played all sorts of silly tricks

Like whooshing off the milkman’s hat

It blew the potted pansies south

And knocked mom’s tulips flat

Has anyone else ever tried

To tell the wind what to do?

I called it names and said it should stop

But it just said rudely, “Who me? Whooo-whoooo!”

So, I just stayed in all day

And wrote a poem about a nasty wind

The wind that tomorrow will turn around

To go racing north as fast again.

New York City (Vignettes of a Journey #4)

And by what charm do you claim to have

Dared to woo a country lass

Of western prairies and slow-going German stock?

Perhaps it was your soaring lines and arches,

The splendor of the gleaming lights,

The haunting cords of history woven,

Or your many-colored children.

What charm, I cannot rightly say,

But this I know,

I long to live your streets in the glimmer of the rain.

I flew from Zurich to JFK, arriving in New York on Monday evening, March 21. My sister, Sara, and a friend flew from Kansas to meet me where we toured NYC for a day and a half and then traveled by train to Lancaster, PA for REACH conference on the 24th and 25th. We stayed in Brooklyn, visited the Ministry Training Center in Queens, stopped in close to Times Square for lunch, rode the Staten Island Ferry, visited the 911 memorial, and finished off with Brooklyn Bridge. I am not counting all the various detours we took in trying to find our way through the city subways. It was a bit exhausting after having flown in from Thailand, but we loved every minute of it. Ok, well, the aching feet we didn’t love.

Zurich (Vignettes of a Journey #3)

I walk along the narrow streets cobbled and silent in early morning

Wondering at how the many years have flown, and I,

I have come back over the ages from a pilgrimage far through the tangled vines of history

Back to where a part of my soul was born.

Echoes from these ancient roads speak to my blood

Stirring the fire within me, the old, old fire from the masters of that age;

And as I walk, I feel the ghosts of yesteryear speaking

The flames of the old beliefs that turned history on edge;

And as I gaze upon the streets and the river where these ancestors lived and died,

I feel their eyes upon me as I walk, and I wonder what they see.

In Grossmunster church, I run my hands over the back of  the wooden pew and sit

Beneath the shadow of the faces in the stained-glass windows

Where Zwingli and Grebel and Manz once stood; and suddenly time is no longer a wall between us

Because men still kill in the name of faith, and the difference between zeal and truth

Is too often undiscerned while factions war against factions, both in word and deed,

Uncaring of the blood that is shed within the church itself, despite the legacy of sacrificial love,

Yes, love, that was mingled with truth and baptized by fire and water.

The words on the wall come alive as the church itself speaks:

Herr, bleibe bei uns, denn ess will Abend werden, und der Tag hat sich geneigt.

I will sit here under the shadow of these walls and wonder for many years.

I had a 7 hour layover in Zurich, Switzerland, and took the chance to make a dream of mine come true. I had about 3 and a half hours in the city itself. Perhaps some other day I will write a post on how to do a short layover in Switzerland.

Chiang Mai (Vignettes of a Journey #2)

Long have I known this city

And loved it

The Rose of the North that blooms below its mountain,

A jewel of splendor and culture;

But these days, I am smothered,

Smothered by the smog that blankets the mountain

Smothered by the sickness floating thick on the air

Smothered by the waiting,

Waiting that clamps its fist around my middle

Waiting…

Waiting….

Waiting….

My trip started in Mae Sariang, traveling to Chiang Mai where I waited for a few days before getting my Covid test and traveling on.

Mae Sariang (#1 Vignettes of a Journey)

Dawn

The sun rises, one fiery eye

From behind the drought-scarred mountains

Wreathed with smoke

Noon

The heat whispers in the cornfields

Burning its secrets in the ground

Writhing around the withered stalks

Afternoon

The dry wind catches the fallen leaves

Pushes its heat into a dust devil and

Twirls the leaves to the tops of the trees

Twilight

Fire licks in V’s in the ridges, up and down

Fire rings the valley about

Fire on the mountains

Midnight

The Tukay laughs and calls on the porch

A confused rooster crows

And the cat sprawls on the cool tiles

Although all photos are mine, and were taken in the Mae Sariang disctrict, several of the ones with fire, as well as the Tukay were taken last year, some up at Saohin.

The next series of posts will be vignettes of a journey as I travel from Thailand to the States, Lord Willing and I don’t catch Covid, on Sunday evening. This includes a 6 hour layover in Switzerland, a day and a half in NYC, 3 days in Lancaster, PA at the Reach conference, and then home to Kansas for several weeks, and then flying back to Thailand in late April, with a 12 hour layover in Germany. If anyone comes to Reach, be sure to stop by the INVEST booth, which will be right beside IGo and MTM’s booth. I am holding all these travels in an open hand and trusting God (or trying to, I should say) to orchestrate this all ( and keep me from catching Covid before travel, since many of my acquaintances have had it recently).

Beautiful World

Do not yet destroy my world, my beautiful world

I am not ready

To let go of the life I have scarcely sipped;

To see the crimson of the sunset bleed far into the night

To hear the thunder of the guns in the rainstorm

To touch rivers of red running through raped cities

To have the silence of the forest be the silence of pale death

I am not ready

For young eyes never to see another sunset

For young ears never to hear the joy-shouts of thunder

For young fingers never to touch crystal rivers in pristine valleys

Never to listen to the silent music of the forest

Please do not take my beautiful world from my beautiful people

Image by S. Hermann & F. Richter from Pixabay