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Lenten Poems - 2009

Most of these poems were written during the retreat and reflect the meditations. Some began as fragments I carried around in my email notes to myself or on the backs of junk mail envelopes and scraps of paper. An aging poet needs these bits of permanency to record images and hints of images as they occur--the memory can still be plumbed, but it helps to have some cues along the way. A word of caution: these poems are all early drafts, subject to change as I review them with my writing group and editor. So you may not see the same poem twice. Such is the nature of unfinished work.

This edition includes the poems only. If you prefer to read the poems with a commentary, please click here.


Retreat Poems

The Sign
February 2009
Not a single day
Recessed Lighting
Ode to French Toast with Berries
Three Benches
Route Seven
Paying Attention
When were the moments of joy?
Feeding frenzy
Morning on the third day
The Oz behind the curtain

The Seven Deadly Sins


Spring Poems 3/29/09

Poet Reflecting
Alliteration Again

Holy Week 4/11/09

East Norwalk Historical

Return to the Preface

* * *

© Copyright 2009, E.G. Happ, All rights reserved


Nothing seems as unclear
as the sun in my eyes this morning--
even St Paul's is a shadow.
Give me a rising
or a setting
with the purple undertones;
a storm rolling in
or out
with a sheet of rain flapping
over the green hills outside of town;
the change in your breathing
deep in the night when you begin to dream
and stir, reaching out for my arm;
these are the moments of radiance,

5 Feb 09


I stop to watch the gulls prepare a meal;
They glide in slow arcs
And pause in mid-air
Letting the muscles go
And flutter-dive like autumn leaves to follow
on the rocks at low tide
a cold muscle tight within itself
splits as an egg left for an instant
rolls off the table
and anchors to the floor
its yolk blooming from the sharp edge of it shell as a sunrise.
A gull picks the center of openness
tosses his head back
and gulps it down

7 Feb 09

The Sign
        For Ash Wednesday.

      I lean into the priest as if he is a shower head,
      into the ash flowing from his thumb;
      as a river parted,
      it flows from my forehead
      divided by nose and mouth,
      over my rising arms, to my feet
      where it pools in soot around each ankle
      until my toes are rooted in the carbon soil;
      it rises slowly, each year another ring of grounded being,
      the strain toward light more urgent,
      bees stick to my forehead,
      birds sing in my ears,
      I drink sun from my mouth.

      2 Mar 09

      February 2009

      This year February is gone,
      left last night after the lights
      were out;
      I discovered the bread crumbs
      on the table where I sat,
      mouse hovering over the date,
      March 1st winking.
      Where has the time gone--
      a cliche about a conversation gone well,
      a work week lost in a flurry of I do's;
      but now on this Sunday morn
      I am missing what will never be again,
      even as I ache for the green
      running like a flood across my lawn and the next
      and the next.

      2 Mar 09

      Not a single day

      “Can any of your worry add a single day to your life?” –Matthew 6:27

      On the porch
      a dozen clay pots
      gather and cup the bulbs
      beneath the long window panes;
      who brings the spring
      into the closet of January,
      tomorrow opened to today?
      So daffodils rise up
      as a month of dawning,
      not a single day goes by
      without stopping on my way
      out the door with my pack of worry
      slung over my shoulder subtracting
      to stop and sway
      clothed like one of these—
      the zeros of their mouths could add up
      to a single day.

      6 Mar 09

      Recessed Lighting

      Lying on my back
      under flood lights
      illumines things unseen—
      there’s an embryo
      of filament curled
      in this flask of resistance
      as if the air were the table
      and I the legs
      of ideas popping up
      as bulbs

      6 Mar 09


      You can watch a room behind you in a dark window
      as it happens without you,
      people seated on a couch
      knitting, reading a book,
      staring into a fire
      resting an arm on the table
      reaching over one’s head scratching.
      Someone is talking now;
      I can tell by the way her head moves.
      If I look off into the night
      remnants of snow hinting on the porch
      and onto a lawn
      I remember being
      there under it all—
      and these pair of eyes closest to the cool glass
      staring back,
      is me.

      6 Mar 09


      is its surprise—
      its been leaking its orange-ness
      against the dry cotton cuff
      of my hand;
      my thumb invades
      its rind
      opening a window;
      veins of white curse the light;
      now its clothes lay back,
      fall to the floor,
      a trail to the bed
      of my tongue—
      a tiny arc of truth
      undressed on my lips

      6 Mar 09


      Sun coming up in the mountains
      undresses the top of trees—
      the forest is a crescent moon,
      trunks in the shadows,
      river wets their feet,
      shade drain from the hills,
      runs with the rapids,
      washes out to sea,
      white birch begin to sing.

      7 Mar 09

      Ode to French Toast with Berries

      I know you are pretending to be dessert,
      masquerading at breakfast
      with your custard wet with berries;
      you really intend to finish my day,
      push me to the end of the poem,
      where what begins
      ends with

      7 Mar 09

      Three Benches

      Three benches sit
      in homage to the edge
      of lawn long under snow
      before the earth trips
      over rocks and tree trunks
      to the river roiling by.
      I imagine two or more people gathered
      sitting deep in contemplation
      in late spring
      when the greens have run
      looking up from the Feng Shui gurgle
      of the Housatonic slowing to summer
      and see each other
      for the first time.

      7 Mar 09

      Route Seven

      She disappears there
      among the trees
      on the other side
      of the Housatonic,
      the light falling
      among the late winter trunks
      that are open to the in-between—
      a red Caravan shutter-clicks north
      and is gone,
      its absence telling
      of the tail lights
      seen winking
      the night before.

      7 Mar 09

      Paying Attention

      Feel each step
      she says—
      it requires slowing down
      so each step
      I remember this as I strap
      on snowshoes
      and step onto wet snow
      for a walk
      of weight.

      7 Mar 09

      When were the moments of joy?

      Slipping sun settling down the late afternoon
      peeks beneath the clouds
      and illumines the room—
      searchlight from the mountain top makes
      exclamations of each tree,
      as if they were the best word
      at the end of the best sentence,
      of the best wood
      at the end of the best winter
      and this is the best moment—

      7 Mar 09

      Feeding frenzy

      I hold a bag of sweet potato fires
      left from last night’s meal—
      too much to consume in one sitting.
      The gulls swarm, fall over each other and the swans
      diving for any morsel
      as I toss them one by one
      into the air;
      the gulls hover, timing their stop and lunge
      to catch the bit of broken orange starch
      in mid air as you click frame after frame.
      there is no end to the feast
      and I am feathered in the joy
      of the Lord.

      7 Mar 09

      See the video here: . Thank you Shirley for the inspiration.


      Three candles
      Their light
      turned to smoke
      that twists
      in fury
      to the rafters
      then disappears
      by the deeper night.

      7 Mar 09

      Morning on the third day

      Day pours
      over the Berkshire hills,
      sunlight soaks the tips
      of the bare trees of early March,
      their fingers burn,
      even as their trunks are still
      in the shadow of night,
      roots still anchored under snow.
      On a Sunday
      deep in Lent
      God comes
      in the slow places,
      a trace of touch
      at the waking.
      I burn.

      8 Mar 09


      The problem with worry
      is all the leaving
      at the beginning—
      so arriving
      is departure,
      never getting the coat of now
      and tossed across the chair,
      keys still in hand
      never make the bowl of the baseball cap
      on the table,
      its still on the head
      turned to the door
      still open
      the knock
      still sounding.

      8 Mar 09

      The Oz behind the curtain

      Lying on my back
      floating on this ocean
      of green flecked carpet
      I see the underside of the room,
      behind the valences
      to the bare curtain rods
      the metal brackets
      and Philips screws,
      the hollow arms
      of the window cranks,
      the tongue and groove
      of the porch ceiling planks—
      all these points of holding
      this house together,
      the recesses of the glue
      of home
      and peace.

      8 Mar 08


      "I tell you," he replied, "if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out." Luke 19:40

      She makes the rounds
      passing the peace
      as if a greeter
      at a door she carries to each of us
      where we all enter
      one by one
      no ticket torn in two
      a hug and a kiss
      say we have a seat
      in this chapel,
      where even the stones
      call out my name.

      8 Mar 09

      * * *

      The Seven Deadly Sins

      The following seven poems were written in response to Jamie Wyeth’s paintings,
      “The Seven Deadly Sins,” 2005-2008, one of my study books for the weekend. The
      painting are all of seagulls. I wrote the poems in reverse order. Sometimes it takes a new perspective to see. (see for the artwork.)

      Pride (7)

      It’s the last painting;
      a red lobster glistens,
      claw held in the beak
      of the gull
      whose eye looks up,
      a half moon
      lit to the heaven
      he rules,
      blind to his brothers
      buckling under the web
      of his strut
      one’s shriek,
      another’s objection;
      one complicit,
      one eyes closed,
      already tucked to the death
      of resignation.

      7 Mar 09

      * * *

      Greed (6)

      The gulls beak opens
      to a grey billowed heaven
      and breaks the silence
      of a shared repast,
      its body barring the boundary-less-ness
      of a sandy beach,
      the hungry to the south,
      the feast to the north;
      popcorn floats,
      an egg sunny-side up:
      a perfect yellow dome;
      a cherry wet with sun—
      even as the ice-cream melts the irony of blueberry pie,
      and runs over its starving feet,
      the single spoon resounding the shriek of
      mine, mine, mine!

      7 Mar 09

      * * *

      Sloth (5)

      The gull settles into the afterwards,
      the banquet taken in
      as the wisdom of the slow times,
      soaking as a full sponge—
      where the angels dance
      the demons lurk,
      in the restful wings
      and neglect of now,
      while Prometheus, consumed in the dream
      has not a leg to stand on,
      the fire has not gone out—
      so to fluff the feathers and loll,
      while the soul is renewed
      and plucked from us.

      7 Mar 09

      * * *

      Envy (4)

      These two with the red-ringed eyes
      are steepling their beaks,
      one just a feather higher—
      there is the noble gull
      there is the mirror gull
      reflecting not himself
      but this other.
      The wise gull below,
      with closed eyes,
      is walking away.

      7 Mar 09

      * * *

      Lust (3)

      I save this one
      until after making love
      after holding your arms
      taking flights
      taking wing—
      gulls feet upon
      the shoulder,
      gull shriek
      at the taking
      the taking
      the taking

      7 Mar 09

      * * *

      Gluttony (2)

      It takes the divine cinnamon baked apple
      in maple puffed pastry with crème anglaise
      to send me over the edge.
      A gull in a sea of beached catch,
      fresh from the net
      holds a fish aloft
      in triumph
      in giving up to this god
      who so filling
      we gag

      7 Mar 09

      * * *

      Anger (1)

      They are screaming
      south and east
      one over the other,
      not at each other,
      not at the god
      who anchored them
      to this stretch of gull sand,
      but in an aria
      to the god
      shimmering off the still sea
      the silver-backed god looking in the glass
      and blind.

      7 Mar 09

      * * * *

      Spring Poems

      The following poems were written in the weeks following the silent retreat. Still in Lent, as in winter, yearning for Easter and spring.


      The leaves swirl,
      scritch across the pavement,
      rise up as a obelisk
      in a Stonehenge cloister--
      the shadow is cast just so,
      from where the time teller stands;
      here is the hour
      of my belief;
      here is the hour
      I first began to doubt.

      20 Mar 09


      Six blackbirds pepper the still barren tree
      eying the high-rise feeder
      made for smaller birds;
      not quite half of thirteen
      they whistle just after we fill
      the feeder and wait;
      the chatter of the sparrows call
      and the blackbirds come
      and watch
      before taking all the seats;
      hanging sideways
      they try and curl their beaks,
      flecking out the smaller seeds
      in search of smoky sunflower gems;
      now the squirrels gather on the picnic table below,
      and eye the tall speckled column
      even as they pick up what rains from
      this little oasis of heaven;
      everything points to God's
      His scarcity,
      and this ache for something higher,
      something more.

      21 Mar 09

      Poet Reflecting

      I look at the blackened glass
      late in the evening
      and see an older man,
      one with a tired face,
      intense eyes,
      graying beard;
      the glow of the digital screen
      illumines a face ever emerging
      out of the unknown, the unseen,
      giving voice to all that is behind
      and beneath;
      his mouth opens, hand raises,
      finger points,
      and there is not a sound
      save the click on the keyboard
      of digits searching for the dimly lit
      letters that are each a full-belly sun
      waiting to be pressed
      and bleed.

      27 Mar 98

      Alliteration Again

      Driving to church in the rain,
      the still barren trees weep
      for what wonder waits;
      I strain to see the tint of red
      on the hardwoods,
      the yellow beacons before the lighting
      of forsythia,
      the hinting lime of the willows;
      changing lanes on a Sunday late in March
      reminds me
      of a long winter slowing to a standstill,
      a spring still silent, speaking
      in the thin slices of the branches,
      a hope forked in the lanes of sugar maples,
      sweet sap shouting beneath smooth skin
      that runs, if I watch and wait,
      as surely as this rains rolls down the windshield,
      puddles on the hood
      and into the rich wine of a cup
      that does not pass.

      29 Mar 09

      Holy Week

      East Norwalk Historical

      1871, near the gate
      47 years
      1836, June
      1881 aged 33 yrs, 4 mo's & 14 dys--abbreviated,
      when the crowns of trees are full;
      Carr, no dates, no years,
      just Carr;
      his wife, their mother,
      dearest sister,
      a member,
      a captain,
      father, Paul, Albert,
      Sally widow of Charles,
      Seth Smith
      who departed this life--
      this train bound for glory,
      the row of granite ties
      and rails of grass;
      one enters once by an iron gate,
      remnants of vines wound
      in its curls;
      but here
      in front of Redling
      is a thick cluster of daffodils
      with all the power
      of their yellow sun
      trumpeting the silence.

      10 Apr 09


      Sometimes we are so startled
      we stop in mid flight,
      almost as if to go backwards
      and see what just happened here,
      what death has just become a life,
      what life has been caught up in such reversal,
      killed and lifted up?
      what surprise
      grabs us by the outstretched bones and feathers spiked
      pulls and grounds us even as we soar?
      what startling morning bursts
      onto this night
      and stains even the stones a linen white?

      8 Apr 09

      Note: The Easter video-poem version of Reversal is on YouTube --egh

      * * *
      All Poems © Copyright 2009, E. G. Happ, All Rights Reserved.

      Return to the Preface

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Document last modified on: 04/12/2009

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