Birthday Thoughts in the Woods in October

Photo of a trail through the woods in the fall.
[Image Description: A photo taken in the woods of a trail in the foreground that curves back between beech trees with green leaves and other trees with orange, yellow, and red autumn leaves with sunlight illuminating the scene from behind.]

All I want today is
time to stand,
watching canopy unravel,
flakes of gold
turning to ordinary leaves
then back
to golden shimmers
falling through sunlight.

Time to appreciate
Beech leaves,
clinging to chlorophyll
long after
sassafras and maple
colorfully carpet
forest floor.

More than anything
I need time unhurried
to untangle
and enable myself,
to wander out
and return by the same path
just to see the light
both ways.


[Image Description: Photo of a collage showing four magazine clippings. Top right: A tree with a large, sprawling canopy silhouetted against a dark blue, clear night sky the the full moon filling the left side of the frame behind it. Bottom Right: a different large tree with a taller canopy silhouetted against a blue night sky with dark purple clouds and a sliver of crescent moon in the sky to the right of the tree. Bottom left: Close-up of a water bird with a long bill and black, white, and gray feathers bathed in blue evening light. Top Left: a poem by Gaby Comprés about time and change.]

Life already tilting,
then sideways,
questions revealed
through new perspective.

Too much time
viewing everything–
through the dark glass.

Standing still after nightfall
in attempt to regain footing,
yet moon shadows walk ahead
through sense made of hindsight.

Lenses, narratives, paradigms
fall away, spent petals,
seeing clearly now
through projections.

Giving myself permission
to unfurl hidden wings,
be who I become
through waxing/waning phases.

No one else can
say who I am now–
they’re always naming
through the past.

But I know who I always am:
night sky and moonlight,
steady, yet changing
through the seasons.


[Photo of pavement taken while moving the camera so that it appears as a gray canvas with varying shades of gray and black lines.]

What kind of system produces
those who behold other people
and see only what can be
imposed, controlled, taken?

Autonomy disregarded.
Humanity undermined.

The beautiful unwieldiness of another
callously reduced to
anatomy, role, function, capital,
the fulfillment of demands
from those hellbent to uphold constructed
binaries, hierarchies, supremacies.

Infuriated by anyone
unwilling to accept oppression.

Outraged by those
willing to call harm what it is.

Doubling down on cognitive-dissonance
to maintain the opposite of co-creation:

Extraction as a way of life.

Telling us to continue
consuming, controlling, hoarding
as much as possible
while wildfires rage,
floods overwhelm,
water runs out,
wars are waged,
cities swelter,
children go hungry,
rights are stripped away.

Killing the planet, the future, each other,
so greed and power always rule.

Expected to carry on
feigning independence,
working to exhaustion,
making appointments,
reading fine print,
paying bills,
acting like there is
no other way
things could be.

But systems can be undermined.

Hearts straining against bone,
grief fueling resistance
to this destruction,
anger preventing our deferral,
connection reminding
we can burn with love as well as rage.

Poetry as
indictment, lament, truth.

Truth as
testament, reckoning, re-creation.

Re-creation as
imagination, restoration, healing.

Healing as
the birth of something new.


Dark clouds surround a crescent moon.
[Image description: Dark blue clouds surround an opening through which a lighter-shade of sky is visible. In the center of the opening, framed by the dark clouds, is the thin, crescent moon.]

Late evening walk while
clouds hide-and-seek moon,

months passed walking or gardening or thinking
while wondering if poetry is lost to me,

if now I’m whatever is the opposite of a poet
because now I can’t write the words.

But the moon and my footsteps
know it’s not that I can’t—

they’re not ready.


[Image Description: the poet’s hand, covered in soil from gardening, holds a maple tree seedling with several small, green leaves growing from a block of potting soil with roots visible.]

Change occurs,
requiring adaptation.

Some refuse,
heels dug in,

only their view
only their way.

Some flow,

to place or
to values.

Some evaluate,

may stay,
may move,

knowing there is

more to discover,
more to realize,

wisdom for when
to stand, when to flow,

when to cultivate the shift
that ushers transformation.

Subverting Control

[Image description: one corner of my garden, pallet fence on the left and wire fencing on the right, with trees behind. In the foreground are calendula seedlings growing from the soil next to some stepping stones, with a large patch of black-eyed susan, coneflower, and goldenrod plants growing behind them, yet to bloom.]

In the garden,
work complete for the day
but not ready to leave,
sitting on the kneeling pad,
bare feet in the dirt,
pondering control
and lack of control.

The bodily autonomy
of women and the marginalized,
our children’s safety,
our mother planet,
existing so precariously
at the whim
of those who want total
control as they deem it.

We know there are other ways,
alternatives to this cycle
of dominance and power
we are born into,
inhale with our first breath,
the beginning
of our indoctrination.

Some have left us wisdom, stories,
even shown us by example
other possibilities.

I like to think of other possibilities,
how to subvert control.

Some days,
that feels impossible
and I sit despondent,
weight crushing.

But sometimes I remember resistance,
words of collective liberation.

Looking out at clover growing
abundant in the part of our yard
we’re letting go to meadow,
I think of how lovely it can be
to let go.

I remember years I’ve spent
unraveling my own indoctrination.

And now I breathe deep and look around
at the volunteer Black-eyed Susans
I couldn’t bear to clear,
the goldenrod and late boneset I left
growing among the coneflowers,
even though this gives my garden a wild,
unkempt flair.

I eye the morning glory seedling
I did not plant
that recently appeared
between the rows of straw flowers
and decide to leave her alone.

The act of planting what I have
is enough control for this space,
not everything needs my intervention.

And maybe, somehow,
these decisions unravel
one more thread of control
in the universe.


[image description: In the foreground, a stone statue of Mary holding baby Jesus, situated in a flower bed that has greenery and a single, yellow tulip fully open. Behind Mary in the flower bed is the statue of a male-presenting monk with his back turned, and in the distance are several tree branches, a brick building, and a gray, cloudy sky.]

“Once a weapon is built,
there’s no way of ensuring
it will only be used on the enemies
for whom it was first intended”
— Andre Henry


Scripture tells us that
God even gave Mary the choice
of whether or not
to become the mother
of God incarnate,
yet men and women
under the influence of patriarchy
who claim to speak for God
believe they know choice better than
someone seeking medical care,
someone who is pregnant,
a couple struggling with a difficult decision–
even God

These patriarchal people
are taught to believe the only choices
available to anyone
should be what they
choose for them,
because patriarchy
is built on

Decades of rhetoric
have worked to train the reach
of their compassion
to extend only to certain groups
and they have been
convinced that there is
no place for complexity,
no space to hold the fact that
multiple things can be true
at the same time,
no possibility that
what they believe best
for themselves
might be trauma
for someone else.

They seem unwilling or unable
to see the truth that choice
is more than just one thing
and what they offer
as easy alternatives are,
in fact,
rarely simple.

Violation is a terrible reality
in our world, homes, churches.
Medical peril is real.
Poverty is trauma.
Pregnancy is dangerous.
Adoption is a labyrinth.
Birth can be death.
Sometimes all available options
are devastating.

This is not to say
there aren’t real moral
questions to address
regarding choice.

This is not to say
there aren’t those who
have sincere personal conviction
regarding when life begins or
what happens in the womb.

Yet too many have allowed the
beliefs they chose
to be used to secure the power
of those who wield their conviction
as the means to strip away
from the marginalized
meger, hard-won
rights of autonomy
because they have been told
it is only the rights of
those who agree with them
that matter.

Convinced their own rights
are absolute even if they
infringe on the rights of others,
convinced they are the ones
persecuted and denied rights
because they can’t always
impose their choices on others,
unable to recognize
that with justice
further undermined,
it could be
their choices,
their rights,
stripped away next.

Even as this seems
the inevitable outcome
of our current state,
I admit
I want to hold out hope
we can find a way
to other possibilities.

Reflections (For One Hundred Thousand Welcomes)

[Image Description: photo resting on a wooden desk of a collage made from magazine photos, showing clockwise from the top left: a blue and yellow passenger train blurred in motion, an artistic juxtaposition of the coronavirus with a green fern and water droplets, a war-zone photo taken from inside a building with a large hole blown in the wall with debris covering the floor, and finally an older, dark-haired woman sitting on a bed wearing a blue skirt and white shirt under a mosquito net featuring an intricate floral and spiral design.]

In lockdown I wrote thoughts
until they became a poem
and then another
and another
and then I remembered
I’ve always thought in poetry.

It was Spring
and the woods smelled of
decaying leaves and honeysuckle blossoms,
as if to remind me that
a cycle of fading and blooming
is the truth of this life and that perhaps
it was possible the
catastrophic failure
of our current systems
would bring about the
letting go and renewal
this world desperately needed.

But time passed and
the ship has yet to right itself.

We have lost so many and
many communities are worse off now than
when pandamonium started
and it’s become impossible to ignore
that we are in a face-off
between those who want a better world
and those whose gods are profit and power
and the only way anything is going
to change for the better is if those of us who can
insist on
a way of life together that is not perpetual harm—
find each other,
work together,
and cultivate it.

Those of us
who are people
of incarnation and resurrection,
of compassion and justice,
of collective healing and liberation,
of knowing there is more to life
than chasing
unfair gain.

Even as we’re told
to go back to normal
and ramp up productivity
and pretend we didn’t see
behind the curtain,
I will keep facing hard truths,
questioning narratives,
dismantling conditioning,
and writing poems.

This is my resistance,
my contribution,
my work.

What is yours?

Welcome the Questions

[Image Description: close-up of dew drops on lawn grass in the foreground, in the background the sunrise is a brilliant orange behind a grove of trees.]

What is it that scares us
so much about questions?

Not asking a question
does not make the answer
less true.

If something is
becoming obsolete,
an inquiry does nothing
to prevent.

What is it that makes us
think we can control by
suppressing curiosity?

Curiosity not expressed
does not disappear.

Rather it closes down potential
for connection
for open exploration
for mutual understanding.

Instead of silencing questions,
invite them,
welcome them,
sit with them,
hold space for them,

and let them show you
and wonder
and truth
that control could
never find.


[image description: photo of a stone fireplace and hearth with a wooden mantle that has a canvas painting of the Grand Canyon resting on it. Morning sunlight is streaming through nearby windows making a golden outline across the top of the painting.]

The morning sun
is painting shadows
on the living room wall,
and I know I need to get up
from the couch and start my day,
but the house is still
and the dogs are quiet,
one cozy at my side,
and I feel calm.

I know
as soon as I stand up
I’ll break the morning-light spell
and the next time I notice,
the sun will be overhead
and there will be no
mystical, golden-tinged
outlines above the fireplace.

Then the furnace kicks on
and the other dog
begins whining to go outside
and it’s time to begin the workday,
but my soul is longing for a place
with different,
uninterrupted time.