Posted in Leaves on the Poet Tree


why do
you continue
to choose
to be
by these
is in
of the
to take
the offered
from your
step out
of a

Posted in Prayers


in this crowd of
all pressed together
standing in the rain
outside the front door
of the home
of a little girl
shot while going
to get ice cream
i hold my candle
waiting for the flame to come to me

soon it will pass my way
i will reach out for the light
hold it high out of the wind and rain
and pray for the day when a child won’t be shot down in the street
a few steps from the
front door
of her

Posted in Leaves on the Poet Tree

Where the Tree Swallows the Fence

we pause
the dogs and i
at the place where the tree swallows the fence
along scent trails where families walked this morning on the way to school as she and i used to
so long ago

barriers abound in this cold place
with wooded flesh
struggling to push through

we turn back towards home
rooms empty of her now
on the steps
i ponder the necessity of fences
where fear
and safety
and freedom
link in an endless boundary line towards a future i can no longer see
or pretend to

Posted in Leaves on the Poet Tree

Stumbling In The Dark

Here I am again, stumbling in the dark,
walking on the old road beneath the
heavy trees from the summer camp and the
noise of children to my empty cottage
just over the next ridge.

I have left behind the loudness of the light,
choosing instead to walk unencumbered into the
velvet depths of the darkness as I have done on
many other nights,

Seeing what I have not seen before,
hearing sounds strange to my ear,
facing myself and fears that are not
illumined by the sun and only lit by the
shadows here
where I am again,
stumbling in the dark.

(Thoughts during Advent Retreat December 13, 2003)

Posted in Poems


The hand on the joystick makes a subtle twist.
The view dips into the confines of a ravine
then bursts free to reveal the lights of a
town glimmering like eyes in the dark face
of the ground.

A red light flickers across the screen.
The finger touches the trigger.
Twin streaks race out into the night,
a burst of fire,
a surgical strike
divorced from the gore.

Tomorrow there will be another announcement in
another newspaper about another death in this
invisible war,

the terrorist,
the pilot of the drone,
the boy in front of his XBOX 360
killing from the comfort of

Reposted from November 6, 2011

Posted in Longreads & Essays

How a Mennonite Yankee Learned to Fight in Dixieland: The Shaping of Personal Conflict Style through Culture

Conflict is bad.

I am on the bus. The big fat bully, Glenn, has been sitting behind me, slapping the back of my head all the way home. I’ve taken it, though the dam inside me is about to burst.

Up ahead, through the bus windshield, I see my mailbox and suddenly I’m standing up, whipping around with my fist cocked, and landing a haymaker upside of Glenn’s head. I’m just as surprised as he is. Through his shock he jumps up, and we wrestle awhile. I tear his disgustingly nice gold chain from around his neck in the tussle. Ricky, my on-again-off-again friend and nemesis, ironically, is the person who breaks us up.

I don’t remember much about the long walk home down our dirt driveway, except that I was unhurt and Glenn got home with a big knot on his head and a broken chain in his pocket.

I do remember that Glenn and I became best buddies. Around the Fourth of July his daddy would buy him a whole crate full of fireworks. Glenn would bring them by our house and we’d have bottle rocket wars against each other. Conflict of another sort.

He and I even planned to start a turtle farm. We were going to go out into the woods and catch box turtles which we would sell to the local pet stores. It never came about, but it was fun to dream with a former enemy.

Growing up a Mennonite Yankee in Dixieland helped formulate the way I dealt with conflict. I was an outsider, outnumbered, different, quiet, patient to a fault, unwilling to fight, and so for the most part I kept my dukes to myself. That day on the bus I broke out of the mold and strangely, I earned the respect and friendship of my bullying neighbor. I still feel guilty about it. Perhaps this essay is an exercise in my ongoing wrestling with this dichotomy.

In my personal conflict style inventory, I discovered some interesting responses on my part in the midst of conflict. During calm times, when disagreement first arises I am a collaborator, then a forcer and on down to an avoider as my lowest score. There is a significant shift in my response if things are not easily resolved and emotions get stronger (storm times). At this time I am an avoider first. Collaborating falls midway with accommodating bringing up the rear.

What I gather from these responses is that initially in conflict I am good at collaborating and/or actively engaging in the conflict with a variety of responses. Avoidance is my least favorable response. However, if the conflict is not easily resolved, my emotions are engaged, and/or it simmers for awhile, I am an avoider extraordinaire. This response, coupled with my cultural experience of conflict as being bad, has led to me to struggle at times with how to engage conflict in a mutually constructive way.

Perhaps the greatest insight I have learned so far in my readings for this class is that conflict is not bad, no matter how much every fiber in my being resists the idea. I have dealt with conflict in the past because it’s a necessary evil. I may feel bad if I do, but I feel worse if I don’t.

To understand conflict as good, a vibrant part of life and relationships, is indeed a new and exciting concept, though like the bully on the bus I am still wrestling with the idea. Will I engage the fireworks, or stay in my shell like one of those box turtles my former adversary and I dreamed of catching in the woods?

October 2, 2003 – reflections for graduate conflict class

Posted in Songs

Monday Monday Song 52 – Orphans of Peace

Hey little boy what’s that on your cheek? It’s a kiss my mama gave me before they sent her across the sea.
Hey little girl what’s that in your hand? It’s a ring my daddy gave me. Now he’s fighting in the sand.

Tell me what are we to do about this gulf between me and you?
Oh God, will you help us find a way?
Am I a fool for believing we will have some peace some day?

We wander in this desert of burning lust and greed where children wait while their parents bleed, searching for the home detroyed by this demon’s release, but in the end I wonder if we’re all orphans of peace.

Now tell me what are we to do about this gulf between me and you?
Oh God, will you help us find a way?
Am I a fool for believing we will have some peace some day?

Hey little boy what’s that in your hand? It’s a flower for my mama’s grave. She’s not coming home again.
Hey little girl what’s that in your eyes? It’s tears for my daddy. He’s raining from the sky.

I’m that American boy and you’re that Arab girl, watching our parents die in another war for the world.
I don’t know about you but I’m tired of being alone. I want Peace for my mother and Justice as my home

November 20, 1991

Posted in The Sunday Driver: Life in the Slow Lane

Prayer of the Immature

If with maturity comes bitterness,

If it brings an unwillingness to change,
the wisdom of the fool who claims to simply know,

If this maturity causes one to reject the
madness that we all in some way carry with us,

And if this maturity brings with it the realization that life is temporary,
that relationships are temporary,
that we are mortal,
and if these realizations cause the heart to become a stone above the struggling seed,
fear of the joyful and courageous pain,

If I can no longer laugh or

then dear God,

Grant that I may remain a child forever!


Posted in The Sunday Driver: Life in the Slow Lane

Reader Ship


Rainy Monday.

Drops land in staccato rhythm upon the AC in time to children voices reading,
soft and loud, but listening to the librarian’s request for gentleness
(with each other and the books).
The energy of good books elicits the energy of young readers.

Puzzle books are popular, little fingers trace crooked paths.
So too bright thoughts in figuring minds . . . growing!
Familiar trails (and books) are sought out; Space, Princesses . . .
books are the ships that will take them to faraway places.

I, a humble Captain, guide as best as I can,
making sure the books are safely harbored to sail from shelf-coves into the hands that need to travel with them and the circles around which these small sailors gather to discuss them.

All the while the rain falls and the oceans outside and within fill up with wondrous watery thoughts.

Written while volunteering in the library of my daughter’s elementary school.