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Lenten Poems
A Trio of Trinities

For the Good Friday Spiritual Retreat at St. Francis, I brought a trio of three poems to read during the meditations, each progressing from darkness to light. I've gathered them here without commentary.

--Ed Happ

An index of Lenten Poems may be found here.
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An End of Innocence

She has on a pink dress
with purple bow
and shiny shoes,
holding her Daddy’s finger.
She does that following-frolic of a dance step
that only five year-olds can do,
lost in her world,
going along for a stroll.
Her father approaches the altar
waiting his turn
leans in for the ashes.

Suddenly she is wide-eyed
with the where-am-I fear
as the priest leans down
to include her in the way
that even she must go.
“I don’t want that!”
she wails,
pulling on her father’s hand
as if a string to a kite
in a desperate retreat
avoiding the storm.

I too am stunned,
and though chuckling
when I see the priest’s face flush,
let the scene sink in slowly
with the serendipity
that only a child can bring,
and think about all the things to want
and those I cannot have.

18 Feb 10

+ + + + + + +


Each evening they come back,
howling like dogs
and prowling about the city.
There they are, bellowing with their mouths,
with sharp words on their lips—
for ‘Who’, they think, ‘will hear us?’ --Psalm 59:6-7

I awake at four
to the sound of whimpering through the night,
the full moon spotlighting through the window in the ceiling
on that precipice of sleep and waking
I think it may be a child down the hall
running from some terror in a dream.
Yet sitting up and turning it becomes apparent
the sound is outside this house
that holds me in its arms--
it may be a wolf in the night, or sly fox come to deceive
or fight--perhaps singing that song after a long hunt
and the prey has given up itself
to the way of day and night.

Slowly I get up,
willing life into legs still weary and weak with sleep,
pulling the shade aside, moonlight spills
down to the snow covered lawn
and gives it a glow so unlike any other light;
I search for the sound to solve this late night mystery--
There, at the trunk of the barren dogwood,
circling back and forth,
a black silhouette--coyote, I presume--
making stifled howls as if caught in its throat
troubled by the moon and snow making the night
a dawning; it pauses
with paws up on the trunk of the tree, waiting.
I go downstairs to have a closer look,
but he is gone.

The next day I am out,
searching for his tracks, to confirm the sighting--
an eagle scout combing over prints and scat--yes, a coyote here;
but there are no tracks besides the back and forth line
of the deer run--no prints beneath the dogwood tree.

And I am caught up--
what was it in the night,
what black, whimpering contour went off into the darkness
where I cannot follow--but only imagine--
and wonder if dreams and daylight are bedfellows
fumbling in what illuminates the air between them?

12 Mar 05

+ + + + + + +


"...of death and dark and despair as not the last reality but only the next to the last."
--Frederick Buechner

It is cold and raining tides,
even umbrellas yield;
pant legs sop up water
like the edge of paper towels
dipped in the spill--
this is the last hold of winter
and we are poured out, empty;
in the dreary despair of dark afternoons
it seems as if there is no end
to this story,
or worse, that this absence
is the final chapter.

Yet there are daffodil shoots
along the walk,
their yellow-green thumbs
say the trumpets
are about to be uncased
and what seems like an end
is the edge of prelude.

29 Mar 10


Other sounds

Give ear to my prayer, O God;
do not hide yourself from my supplication.
Attend to me, and answer me;
I am troubled in my complaint.
I am distraught by the noise of the enemy,
because of the clamor of the wicked.
For they bring trouble upon me,
and in anger they cherish enmity against me. --Psalm 55:1-2

In a room of people
waiting in silence,
you hear the other
the turning of pages,
the small cough,
shifting in a chair,
the scratch of a pencil
the passing airplane
somewhere outside,
a candy wrapper
the hum of a heater
in the basement.
In a room of people
waiting in silence,
you hear the other.

13 Mar 04

+ + + + + + +

Telling Time

Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force,
withdrew again to a mountain by himself. --John 6:15, NIV

While skiing
on the path through the wood,
I grab my cell to check my time
and drop it in the snow--
the battery pops free
and lays there disconnected.
The gloves come off,
the poles tucked under
one arm, I bend
to snare them
brush the snow
from the silver case
and snap it back together.
Pushing power
I wait for the telling buzz
with satellite icon searching
the sky as if a radar
looking for planes lined up
for final approach
and landing--
there are none found,
and I have no idea
how long I've skied,
how far I've come
and when to turn back--
I listen to my breathing
and the ache in my legs
and know.

13 Mar 05

+ + + + + + +


"...the playing is itself the first fruits of the Kingdom's coming..." --Frederick Buechner

When I see that look of curiosity
in the tentative toddler's eyes,
nascent body turned into the familiar,
the safe,
holding tight with one hand,
the other pulling on curls
after a halfway point of thumb
and finger
as if to grasp,
at what the head has turned to look,
eyes widening to take in the strange
white bearded face;
I raise my eyebrows twice,
then twice more,
and she is captive to the wonder,
smiling in the delight of seeing
something new,
that just may be
something that happens
once again.

30 Mar 10


To the Ocean

There was a stream
next to the house
where I spent half my childhood;
I was forever pulling leaves and limbs
from it
so the water that had backed up
behind the impromptu dam
could flow anew—
there was something about water
moving freely by
that called to my tending
as if downstream
was a place to go
without impediment.
When I can’t pray
I think about the wall of branches
that one by one needs to be pulled out
of the way;
And when I do pray,
I’m sailing to the ocean on the last golden leaf

27 Feb 10

+ + + + + + +

Advice to the ones I love

Be the leaf;

When there’s a beginning,

In the toughest storm of summer
Hang on with equal relentlessness

Have guest
Even if a fleeting bird

Change color
Blow in the wind

At the right time
Let go

Make someone’s path

Saturday, 27 Feb 10


“all the death that ever was, set next to life, would scarcely fill a cup.” --Frederick Buechner

If ever there were
a stronger word of God,
it would be Yes!
All the history of No
cannot compare—
a teapot in an ocean;
I can as much push this Yes away
as hold my breath—
so the Saint suggests;
and when I’ve breathed my last
even this final No
becomes a Yes.

Thursday, 4 Mar 10

* * *
All Poems © Copyright 2010, E. G. Happ, All Rights Reserved.

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