A World Transfigured

August 6th, 2020

A fragment of an unpublished poem on the Solemnity of the Transfiguration:

Wholly Mystery, whom I dare approach,
and in nearing nearly apprehend
not you so much as the gulf between,
suffer these, my poor petitions,
my tepid desires, as a mother
abides her child’s tedious requests
for one more story, a cup of water
to stave the coming of sleep.

Though what I ask is far less dear
than your presence, doubting
as I do what fullness lies beyond
the unmapped oceans of my ignorance,
hear in my halting words the longing
I long to feel more fully, empty
my heart of all that is not you,
open my eyes to a world transfigured.

Image Credit: 15th Century Ikon of the Transfiguration by Theophanes the Greek

Indelibly Marked

May 28th, 2020

In which I review three poets writing in the Catholic vein.

Photo Credit: Luis Sánchez Saturno, The New Mexican

Science, Poetry, and the Imagination

May 23rd, 2020

In light of necessary COVID restrictions, the Glen Workshop, an annual gathering of writers, visual artists, musicians, and anyone interested in what happens at the intersection of art, faith, and mystery, will be held online this year (July 27-31) rather than on the campus of St. John’s College in Santa Fe. I’m delighted to be among the presenters this year, a faculty that includes some jaw-dropping names, who will also be presenting on IMAGE journal’s free Summer Stage series which begins next week .

I’m leading a seminar on science, poetry, and the imagination. In addition to reading and discussing some great poems and short prose pieces, we will be joined online by several distinguished guests from North America and the United Kingdom. Registration includes online access to the seminar, faculty presentations, and open microphone sessions. Registration fees have been reduced and scholarships are available. (The scholarship application deadline is June 1.) I’d love to have you join the conversation.

Reflections on the Pandemic

April 13th, 2020

I have two thematically-related, Wendell Berry-inflected essays on living through the COVID-19 pandemic that were posted today. Fill out your reading list here or ponder what limits mean for health in community here.

Image of Wendell Berry from Center for Interfaith Relations via Flickr

What Hasn’t Changed

February 19th, 2020

Last month, in a post on gun violence and the growing understanding of Robert Kennedy, I mentioned the 1963 meeting between Kennedy, James Baldwin, and other civil rights leaders that went disastrously awry. The consequences of that gathering proved varied and contradictory. Then Attorney General Kennedy quickly instructed FBI Director J Edgar Hoover to increase surveillance on Baldwin to uncover information of “a derogatory nature.” On the other hand, it marked a turn in Kennedy’s evolving attitude regarding racial justice. Within a month, President John F Kennedy – at his brother’s urging – delivered his landmark Civil Right Address, from which the 1964 Civil Rights Act took form.

Another product of that evening, at once more immediate and less procedural, was a video recording of an interview Kenneth Clark conducted with Baldwin. In an attempt to ease Baldwin’s palpable post-meeting tension, Clark started by asking the writer about his childhood memories. What followed was an emotionally powerful and stunningly eloquent exploration of the American soul that only someone with Baldwin’s experience and verbal gifts could pull off. Clothing his indictment in his characteristic – if undeserved – compassion toward white Americans, he says, “I can’t be a pessimist because I’m alive,” and ties the future of America to whether or not its people can “face, and deal with, and embrace this stranger whom they’ve maligned so long.” He then challenges White America “to find in their own hearts why it was necessary to have a n—-r in the first place, because I’m not a n—-r. I’m a man. But if you think I’m a n—-r, it means you need it…And if you invented him, you have to find out why.” Read the rest of this entry »

The Curse of Interesting Times

February 6th, 2020

What historians of the future will make of this week’s events on Capitol Hill is more than any of us can know. It may seem the United States can hardly grow more divided and angry, but that, I fear, is wishful thinking, an understandable attempt to deny the ongoing drama of disintegration. Those who eventually write the history of this time will, as always, be the victors, or rather, perhaps, those who survived, who did not reap the full force of the now gathering whirlwind. Perhaps historians will say Democrats made a colossal blunder in pushing their case too quickly, forcing a vote before diligently pursuing all legal means to build a case. Republicans may well be judged as having sold their souls for power, a treasure considerably less than the whole world. Most likely, this week will be seen as one step – perhaps a momentous one – in a larger, longer process. Read the rest of this entry »


January 20th, 2020

There was nearly a murder a day in my adopted city of Baltimore in 2019; the official total being 348. The casualties in this ongoing, undeclared, and pointless war fell once again most heavily on African-American families. We are a very long way from “the dream” well intentioned pundits glibly invoke each Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend as if sentimentality were enough to stanch the bleeding. The “post-racial society” heralded by some after Barack Obama’s election was, it seems, no more than wishful thinking. Read the rest of this entry »

The Journey of the Magi

January 6th, 2020

It’s the Feast of the Epiphany in the West and of the Theophany in the East, and though T S Eliot’s Ariel Poem, “The Journey of the Magi,” gets trotted rather often this time of year, there’s still something in the words that makes me shiver. From the slightly modified excerpt from Lancelot Andrewes’s 1622 Christmas Day sermon that comprises the first five lines to the troubled thoughts of the speaker at the close (and from which Chinua Achebe took the title of his 1960 novel, No Longer at Ease), this is a dramatic monologue in conversation with the living and the dead. Read the rest of this entry »

Christmas Eve

December 24th, 2019

Cum ortus fúerit sol de cælo,
vidébitis Regem regum
procedéntem a Patre,
tamquam sponsum de thálamo suo.
Read the rest of this entry »

O Emmanuel

December 23rd, 2019

O Emmanuel, Rex et legifer noster,
exspectatio Gentium, et Salvator earum:
veni ad salvandum nos, Domine, Deus noster.
Read the rest of this entry »