At dawn there are the shorebirds
after silent matins—
a colony of common gulls,
two whimbrels and a plover—
genuflecting above the shining sand
while they seek their portions.

The breeze that moved so gently
over deep with morning’s haste
gusts up again to chase the birds
and raise the drowsy heads of sea oats
bending to the dunes and rouse
them into rhythmic davening.

At height of sun and breaking tide
the boat-tailed grackle all alone
has found assurance bold enough
to trawl the rippled shallows of the strand
and harrow their more plenteous supply
than any need he seeks to satisfy.

The spirited wind at last subsides
to allow the angling tide to roll
the foamy edges of the ocean back
then suddenly picks up again
to lift a string of pelicans and ferry them
along the secret way of glimmering fish.

All the while the understated moon
waits for hibiscus cast
of journeying sun to nestle
behind the shadow of scrub pines
before it puts its own reflection down
on the stiller surface of the sound.

These are the fixed hours on the outer banks
a single page within the endless book of days
creation follows to render praise
and recognize the power that abides.

And this is mystery akin to grace
how water and wind and bird together
all converge in this one place
where with this liturgy of light
I come to see
what holds them all keeps me.

— first appeared in Talking River Review

Defining Diagnosis

recalling Milton

So dark may come for me,
The compelling evidence suggests,
As relentlessly as dusk
When ambient light subsides,
And time peels field of vision back
And tunnel tapers into black
And eye resigns itself
Beneath the heft of its inheritance.

I have seen twilight fall each day,
A fleeting harbinger of night,
Itself impermanent, which bows
Before sure planetary lights
That find the narrow breach
In dark’s broad wall
And then array their luminance
Against the midnight pall.

Before depravity of shadow enters in,
Commences its hard press on me
And all the frailties of my sight,
I am resolved to look beyond myself
As moons for eons have
To find the source of constant light
By which is marked their course
Of praise, the glory they reflect.

So shall I defy this curse of blindness
Poised to destroy the fleshly eye
Which, looking in, is weak and focus dim
But looking out and fixed on Him,
Makes vision strong and magnifies the hope
And faith through which redeems
The promise that He made for me:
All the certain light that I shall need.


(sotto voce)

In the iridescent dust of monarch’s wing
and secret places of my brokenness

In the turquoise ring encircling gannet’s eye
and secret places of my brokenness

In the frost’s filigrees that edge the alder leaves
and secret places of my brokenness

In slim filament of spider’s fragile weave
and secret places of my brokenness

In the glide of snail along the lilting stalk
and secret places of my brokenness

In spotted ensatina’s slide between the rocks
and secret places of my brokenness

In cypress shadow’s fall in darkening bog
and secret places of my brokenness

In slow peep of dawn that breaches vernal fog
and secret places of my brokenness

In miniscule grain of sand that seeds the pearl
and secret places of my brokenness

In deep yellow bruise that stains the wind-bent reed
and secret places of my brokenness

In all of these things, in all of them, in all
when I lie quiet I hear your still voice call.