April 21, 2014

Cover Feature | Free Verse

First Place


(Psalm 90:4; Romans 8:22)

Earth, close your eyes.

Rest your weary bones.

You may sleep a thousand years tonight.

No Abel-blood to stain your pristine vesture.

Nor shriek nor moan of rack-mounted, thumb-hung victim.

No stench of quivering martyr-flesh charring over its pyre.

Absent the taste of napalm flung in your face

and the fresh, raw abrasions of strip mines, the sting of acid rain.

Earth, close your eyes.

Rest your weary bones.

You have received double for all their sins.

Forty days of downpour
and upsurge,
casting loose your tectonic plates to grind out later tsunamis,

gulping down primeval forests to power behemoths of business 4,000 years hence.

Staying your axial spin to allow Pharaoh’s migrating exlaborforce a crucial victory,

even backpedaling without protest to reassure an ailing monarch.

And then
He came.
You cherished the pad-padding of His sandaled feet,

cradled His ache-weary form as He slept—and prayed,

even gave back His friend Lazarus from your bosom

(How many dead does one earth need to shelter, anyway?).

When they killed Him, you retched,

spewing out legions of the holy dead, revivified to herald His gigantic victory.

And when His toes lifted from your skin, it wasn’t to have been
this long—was it?—until . . .

Sleep comes hard when everything is so disheveled, I know.

All your joints are askew,

your gaping cave-mouths gagged with mountain-crumbs,

your oceans wantonly ignoring His “thus far and no farther” sea-marks.

Vast unburied squadrons of the rebel’s followers,

himself and his allies berating each other through the terrifying darkness.

But you’ve borne your curse “for man’s sake” bravely; you’ve earned repose.

Close your eyes.

Rest your weary bones.

For morning comes apace, and you’ll want to be refreshed for the endless, exuberant “rest of the story.”

After a score of half-centuries idling in your orbit,

He will come—a third time, no less!—and then,
after one last brief hour of ultimate folly,

the healing, cleansing, purifying fire,

purging away piling and pipeline, cable and deep-well punctures.

From your shaken core and your jumbled, formless void,

He can craft Paradise anew—
and He will!
And you will come forth, as once before, fit to host beauty, unity, perfection, love unendingly.
“And God Himself will dwell with them—”
your restored wholeness will be His eternal home!

Earth, close your eyes.

Rest your weary bones.

You may sleep a thousand years tonight.

Second Place

Our daughter’s words and the Lord’s words from Jeremiah 45:4, 5, NKJV.*

She said,


I’m trying not to forget

our old house,

my room, my window

with the blue blinds,


the hiding place we’d built

with the cushions of the old beige sofa—

What I have built
I will break down,

I’m trying not to forget

our fort in the backyard

on top of the lowly apple tree with small sour apples

we picked and nibbled the beginning of each summer—

What I have planted
I will pluck up,

I’m trying not to forget

the kittens and their moms

underneath our deck

that, Daddy, you said we should not feed

but you knew we would because they were hungry

and you wouldn’t want
Grizzly, Tiger, Puzzles, and Snowball
to go hungry. Especially Ears, whose lobes the winter frost
had bitten off—

I will pluck up,
that is, this whole land,

I’m trying not to forget

the ravine with the wild, stubborn grapevines

that never produced grapes

only pain for you, Daddy, trying

to get rid of them.

In the ravine I buried
the chipmunk because he died
of a wound, and I wrapped him

in one of Mommy’s kitchen towels she let me use.

But I will give
your life to you
as a prize
in all places,
wherever you go.


I’m trying not to forget.

* Texts credited to NKJV are from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Third Place

They both dreamed of owning a castle.

They both wanted a view.

Of course they would both build by the sea.

Wisdom chose a foundation of

flinty rock,

beautiful, firm and solid.

Folly chose a foundation of

glistening sand,

beautiful, soft and golden.

The house on the sand

was built to impress.

Though all dark within,

spearlike spires

and globelike domes

gleamed in the sun.

18 1 3

The house on the rock

was built to endure.

Beams from within

brightened all around,

for its inner glory

reflected the Son.

With the night a storm thundered in—

a roaring lion seeking its prey,

pouncing, clawing at

quivering castle hearts.

Rain streamed down in torrents.

Winds howled, waves crashed,

towers toppled, turrets tumbled,

weak walls crumbled

and slid toward a tryst with the undertow.

Its fury spent,

the tempest scurried away.

Pounding surf and crashing waves

morphed into a lullaby.

From her lofty home

atop chisel-hewn stone,

Wisdom looked out at the scene,

at the graceful curve

of the windswept beach

that cradled a quiet sea.

So peaceful.

So beautiful.

So . . . empty.

Third Place

Gray Is a Color,Too

Heavenly Father,

On this blustery, rainy, winter morning

Remind us that gray is a color, too

Of Sunrise


Clouds that bring needed rain

The breasts of doves

The fur of kittens

Rail fences along country roads

Smoke from chimneys

A favorite coat

Remind us that gray is the color, too

Of wisdom


Life’s mysteries

Difficult choices

Father of us all, help us to remember that gray is a color, too

as we face our individual winters of the soul

Times when the warming sunshine of Your love

does not penetrate our clouds.


Third Place

I don’t know exactly why I left.
One minute I was present,
frolicking and feasting with the flock,
the next I was battling the bramble bush.

True, the humdrum pasture fare,
so ho-hum, same old, same old,
was dull and dry
while verdant, tempting blades
beckoned from far-off lea.

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Heeding long my restlessness,
shaggy old rams tried hard to warn—
though spears look green,
they are not always good.
Long, fearsome tales they spun
of what befell all those who strayed.
But, reasoned I, though evil it may be,
what harm a tiny, teensy nip?

Off I went. No backward glance.
Watchful ewes took worried note,
blathering in vain.
I knew they’d tell the Shepherd,
and I didn’t even care.

Then I felt myself fall,
thick briars clutching at my coat.
My pitiful baas, far from listening ovine ears,
fell unheard on frigid air,
and I grew numb with bitterness.

How long I struggled,
without help, without hope,
I do not know.
I was lost and I would die,
a wasted wandering wretch.

And then—and then—
I sensed the Shepherd near.
Cowering, expecting His wrath,
I waited
for condemning words
that never came.

His hands did not recoil
as gently He applied the balm of mercy
to heal my loathsome wounds.

Now, secure upon His shoulders,
I marvel at His love,
thankful that we’ll journey home