Carrying the Weight

The tonnage of this load
exceeds all legal limits
of a bridge.
You cannot cross it
to the other side.
The crushing weight
of granite grief
will split the spans and
send you spiraling down.

Unless (and
I am no engineer)
the load is
properly distributed
on this barren,
buckling asphalt,
heaving under
the weight
of your shattered,
tear-stained heart.

Yes, we will bear the burden
with you-
even it on our shoulders
like so many wheeled containers,
transporting anguish
across state lines.

We will help to bear the
cargo of pain
that's sent you
careening across this
four lane stretch,
out of fuel
bereft of even water.

A load this great must be borne over a
life's length of days.

And we will wait
on the other side
heads atilt,
looking for your coming
as you cross
waving you on
with signs that
say "Rest Ahead."

Linking with dverse Pub for Open Link Night #75. 
More healing words there. And prompted by this, 
"...whatever portion of sadness that we can share with you
to ease this heavy load, we will gladly bear it."
President Barack Obama, Dec. 15, 2012,
from speech at Newtown Memorial for the children.


I bend to be formed,
not torn or broken
but tempered by heat,
a fire so hot
the white is all
You see of me.

I said “change” and “grow”
and I’m bent so low
this shape of me
is screaming--
melting brass in Your
hands, forged by
tools so strong
I fear the breaking.

But I'm bound to bend,
be shaped, sheared
shown anew
the sound of me,
the shine of me,
gleaming  glory.
Yes, choosing to bend
not break,
become the beautiful
breath of sudden sound
built by your Spirit (breath)
living notes
played through me
a golden song borne on the wind....


#whyisitcalled a hashtag?

and not a number sign
as in "#3"?
(or n-o period 3?)

For that matter,
why is it a "pound sign"?
(as in "Please enter your password,
followed by the pound sign?"
(my son did not weigh
7#'s 3 oz.
it was lbs., thank you.)

You're calling it a hashtag
for tweeters who
twitter (or tweet?
yes, tweet........
but that's a bird)

Maybe it's a hashtag as in
corned beefed hash--
in front of the tag?
as in, "tag, you're it?"
as in....oh, I give up.

just tell me
why is it called a hashtag?
Adding some 'tricks' to the mix, a smile perhaps.  This poem was first posted on my Facebook page in a response to someone who had just joined Twitter.  Now I think I can see the benefit of this social connection--even the NYC Mayor used it last night! 
Linking up with dVerse Poets for Open Link Night 68 and praying for all in harm's way.

Strong Trees

Josh Groban is
heavenly hollering
"Jesus, Joy of Man's Desiring".
The sweet and gentle
resolution of the violin and oboes
slows me down to hear your
soft love.

Not the out loud from
the rooftops kind,
but quiet as the roots of
a tree digging down
in the dark,
seeking support
where we need it.

You tether and train the branches
so I can build a tree house
for all the world to see up top,
waving bright flags
to the busy, noisy world
calling, "Isn't life grand?"

But your towering quiet
reminds me
a tree is beautiful and strong,
growing not just up and out
but down as well,
anchored in what matters--
the soil of who you are
living with the leaves of
who I am,
splendoring the world
with shade and space,
quiet, strong, sure.

You stay put and
I'll climb up,
letting the banners fly,
declaring these words,
"Isn't God grand?"
Three months ago when my husband was getting ready retire I was not looking forward to the transition. A friend who prayed for us gave us this verse, which was a little odd at the time, but it actually fits perfectly. To my surprise and delight my precious husband has the kitchen clean when I get home from work, vacuums the floors (his idea) and sorts our clean laundry without me asking. AND, he doesn't mind when I listen to Josh singing his heart out with the volume way up while I cook. Yes, my husband is a gift. And yes, our God is grand. 
(This poem originally appeared over at my blog Three Way Light, linked with dVerse Poets.)

Looking for Life in the Garden

There is no flower on the
zucchini--I guess there will be
no more fruit.
It is time to put the garden to
bed, as Margaret says.

Fruit only comes in the right season
and we are not to be always producing.
there is stillness,
rest, tearing out,
covering up (mulch helps).
There is quiet, it is cooler
and less sun to see by day.

But the days are no shorter,
we still have the alloted 24 hours,
same time, just
a different direction defined
by deeper chores
putting down roots in the soil
of the Word.
Searching for living water
(no more drinks from the hose--
ever ready)
but putting forth the effort
to savor draughts from that well--
that is the work of the winter
months to come.

drinking deep in the darkening
waiting through winter
to Spring.

Atticus to Zeppelin

Three of my grandchildren and their mother, April 2012

"Recess teacher!!"
(That would be me
and anyone else over 3 feet tall
who has a whistle).

"Hey guys, just so you know,
my name's Mrs. Collins",
flashing my cartoon-y fish
logo with my fancy-ish name.
"What're your names?"
"I'm Atticus, this is

"Well, those are some pretty big
 names," I remark,
and proceed to untangle the
playground problem.

They walk away while
I'm musing
the challenge of the names
they are saddled
embattled with
in the spelling
from K through twelfth,
and I wonder
what parents--
readers of classics?
rock and roll fans?--
would do that
to a five year old,
giving them,
not a name to grace them
to fit well
but letters too many
to spell
when you are five
and all you want to
do is play on the
and fly..........

Linking for the first time with LL Barkat for On, In and Around Mondays
and with dVerse Pub for Open Link Night 65.  More good stuff over there.

Truer Gifts

Twelve minutes after two
the blinking red face
confirms as I waken
wondering, why?
I was so very tired
and now I am N O T.
the pulsing numbers push me
back—a book, a bowl of cereal,
a bending black case
with another glowing face
and I click and read,
peruse the people saying
something I didn’t say.
consuming comments not for me
circles where I do not live.

I land with sleepful hope pillowside
thinking, blinking
full and empty at once--
full of other words,
lifeless feasts for my soul
empty in great part because
of this vision and mind meal
feeding nothing.

The hours pass--
red lights proclaim 4:30.
"Perhaps now," I think,
closing my wordful eyes,
the manna I never tasted.
And I remember,
"By day the LORD directs his love,
at night His song is with me,
a prayer to the God of my life."
                     Psalm 42:8

I declare in the dark
and drift off,
dreaming of truer gifts--
water that quenches,
bread that satisfies,

"Next time," I say,
"I'll sing."

slow down.....

Grandson Hanan Samuel, 3 ish

Watching Hanan see the World

Spider, bug,

Ant and bee

In my garden,

At my knee.

Provide a show

For this young one,

Eyes tuned tight

In midday sun.

He alone can see them move

We pass so fast his dawdling proves

Were we more still

We’d find delight

In this wee world

Through childs’ sight.
I wrote this several years ago when our son and his wife and Hanan lived with us. I remember when he was a toddler and he enjoyed crawling around in our yard....there are spiders galore this year--he would love it!
He started back to school a few weeks ago and is now a fourth grader; the years have gone by so fast.
Life especially seems to gear up and get going each Fall as school begins again. I thought this was a good reminder to   s l o w d o w n....

Linking with the fine folks at dVerse Pub for Open Link night 63.
More good reading over there!

Missing Peace

Sometimes I don't know which direction I'm going
until I get in the car and

Sometimes I don't know what's on my heart
until I start to write.

sometimes I don't know what's on my mind
until I open my mouth and speak
and my Father gives the words.

Sometimes I don't know what I'm missing
until the piece presents itself
and I realize, 'wow, there it is!'

Then I am at peace.

"6 Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything,
but in every circumstance and in everything,
by prayer and petition (definite requests),
with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God.
7 And God’s peace [shall be yours,
that tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ,
and so fearing nothing from God and
being content with its earthly lot of whatever sort that is,
that peace] which transcends all understanding
shall garrison and mount guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus."
Linking with Miss Emily for Imperfect Prose Thursdays
and Jennifer for God Bumps

With apologies to Wm Carlos Williams

This is just to say we could not eat the plums--
they were so many
pyramided together in plastic,
hailing from casa de Costco
where everything is sold in bulk.

We could not eat the plums.
unripe as they were--
purple/black skins
yielding to (very) firm yellow
(oh! not sweet)

We enlisted children,
yea grandchildren--
the 5 of them, and
their parents
but the pyramid remained piled
for ripening another

Oh--you bought apricots, too?
But we still have these plums........

Linking with the wonderful writing crowd at dVerse Pub for Open Link Night

If All the World were Paper

Sam learns to write--September 2011  jlc.

Thank goodness for paper
in all its glorious forms,
surfaces for saying in pen (cil)
what needs to be said
available everywhere for the asking.

Napkins are handy at that dinner with a friend,
the back of a program
will do when inspiration
strikes during Scene Deux.

Church bulletins--always!--
(but more white space would be nice...)
maybe next to the Small Group announcement?

The endpapers of a book,
the margins of a book.

Writers must write--
and when the Spirit moves,
any paper will do....

Now where did I put that placemat from last week's lunch?

My daughter Leah Johnson is a chef here in Tacoma, WA.
I had lunch there last week and wrote this while I waited for my clam chowder.

Some really great poetry there!


Evening view from our deck, Pacific Northwest

Enya remembers trees
and I would rather, too.
Remember, that is--
summer trees--lush and green,
flower draped, glistening color and sunlight.
Full of life, saturated with purpose,
giving shelter and shade,
returning live breaths to the atmosphere they inhabit,
covered head to toe
cloaked in a wardrobe of wonder,
branches raised in praise.

But alas, the truth is--
bare branches framed against the sky paint a stronger, more sure picture.
Their form and structure
revealed only by what isn't there...

no leaves
no life
no lush-ness.
Just barren bones holding up the air--
a perch for birds perhaps
or the perfect place to hang a swing.
Solitary strength
a support for others,
a trunk for clinging to,
leaning against in the fiercest storms.

Strike that.
Autumn trees are best,
showing me what's needful there
to grow on, build on, add to when the summer comes...


                      Solomon Episcopal Retreat Center
                     Rachel Zoe DuPlessis. Used by Permission
This poem is shared with Tweetspeak Poetry for their June theme: Trees
and with dVerse Pub for Open Link Night #50  Join us!

Spring reign

The warm spring rain persisted
Like the need for prayer, insisted I arise.
A call to care, regardless of the hour,
When time knows no limits,
And love requires me to listen!

Whose heart’s cry do I hear?
My own—involved, consumed?
Aware of the power, if I ask, for
The Father’s hand to reach down
And touch—bring healing, redeem, make new.

Whose heart do I hear?  The Father’s—
Broken, broken…
Splintered and crying over lost lives,
The enemy’s stealth and deception,
Muddling perception, leaving blind the sightful.

Whose heart would I hear?
His own—truthful, honest, facing the light
That reveals the pain, not concealing,
But paying the cost for a change.
Deciding that pretense makes no sense
When death brings the ultimate perspective.

How I pray that he would see the Father’s heart,
Broken open for him.
See the arms that welcome the wounded,
turn towards the light—
the light that brings comfort,
restoration, warmth.
The warmth and depth of His love,
love that sheds for him falling tears
like the persistent, quiet Spring rain
outside my door…

c Jody Lee Collins  2012

Sharing with the amazing folks in poetry land for Open Link night at dVerse pub.  Join us!

First Grade Recess

I wanna wear rainbow-striped leggings like Carly
or a bright pink tutu with Zoe's sparkly shirt.
I'd like pigtails or a vivid
purple flower clipped
in my hair.
I'd like to run with abandon
hollering after a ball
and do a leaping high five
when I catch it.

I want to jump rope--double-dutch, in fact--
"Ice cream, Ice cream
cherry on top
How many boyfriends
do you got?"
and count As High as I Can
until I miss

I want to skip away with my friends
and giggle at a joke,
without a care in the world.

But alas,
I'm here in the background
standing still, dressed in
blase black and khaki,
watching from afar
with a whistle and a name tag
around my neck--Official-Looking--
and bewildered by all these rules,
remembering My Schedule,
keeping things in line...
wishing I was 6 years old again,
even if just for a day.

Joining in the fun at dVerse Poets for Open Link Night. 
More great poems there!


We have a mandate to leave no child behind,
Yet we are educating children not left behind,
But left to die, escaping with their families and their lives,

The clothes on their backs and a lifetime of images they can barely forget.

So we attempt to educate them--‘educate’ from the Latin-‘to lead out’

Lead out from terror, away from want, weariness and war.

Away from fear, their homeland torn beyond recognition.

Lead them to America, where we shout “welcome!”

 and expect them to be, somehow, just like our children.

Expect them to forget the hell they’ve seen,

ask them to ignore the obvious (they are alive!)

Expect them to observe the rules, sit in our chairs, 

be quiet, controlled, obedient.

Raise our voices when they don’t understand,

shake our heads at their laziness and lack of discipline,

that they are so behind and don't understand the rules.

If we spoke their language, we'd understand this:
“Thank you for the clean water and indoor plumbing.
Thank you for the windows in my classroom,
the grass at lunchtime, the daily food and a place to
Stand outside in the sun away from bullets.”
“Thank you for the pencils, this paper that is mine,
for this ‘picnic’, (for surely it must seem to them!)
This safe place of freedom
To play and laugh without fear
Regain some of my childhood spent
in the dark behind doors and walls.

Thank you for not having to hide, be quiet, be not-me
But be who I am, free in America.
As to my education—that can wait.
Right now I'm simply breathing deep, this flag
in my hand, new friends nearby, enjoying
the sound of peace."


Ten years ago when I switched from my own classroom to working as an Assistant, I taught in a classroom for English Language Learners.  This poem was prompted by my experience with a Middle Schooler and his father, who were from Iraq.


Elderly gentleman at the bus stop
braving the chill this
cool, breezy spring morning
Bright orange backpack on,
crutches at his side.
How does he stand it?
all that bare baldness,
hat-free in the cold?
Wide ribbon of gray
encircling this head,
body erect, shoulders back.
Nimble hands holding
the schedule, eyes alert
searching for Route 405.

It’s early—people-on-their-way to work time,
drinking-morning-coffee-in-their-cars time
and he stands
and waits.

That knapsack is filled—
Clean water bottle at the ready.
Inside--more layers?
Today’s lunch?
Supplies to attend him
on his walking journey,
crutches standing tall
at attention.

Why would he ever let those slow him down?

Proverbs 16:31
“Gray hair is a crown of glory.  It is gained in a righteous life.”
How often we guess at the realities of the people we pass by, imagining all kinds of lives for them.  This poem was prompted by a quick glance at a stoplight over to the curb and well, there he was.

Sharing with dVerse Pub for Open Link Night 42--more great poems here.




Reception without reservation








c. J. L. Collins 2012

“The best kind of poem is an inventory.”  G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy, 2009

My husband and I visited friends in their church in New Orleans over our Easter break. The congregation was hungry for God’s presence and He came.  It made all the difference in the world.   He inhabits the praises of His people.

The Kindness of Strangers

way back then
when no one knew
the world would crack the next day,
we stood there,
tourist trappings wrapped around us
'howdy' I said, that quiet night on the subway.
late ride home, guest of the nephew,
no one but he, myself, and daughter, it seemed.
(surely there were others).
"We're from Seattle," I announced,
including my girl
with the sweep
of my hand. 
"Visiting him....."
towards the nephew.

"My name's Peter. I'm a writer,"
he replied.
'Who do write for?'
'A magazine--Newsweek...'
and me so impressed, not by his job
but his niceness in New York
that carried over to the exchanged emails
and the phone call I got to make the few days later
when, safely arrived at home, across miles of mayhem
and madness
I reached through, asked for him,
and heard him say, "Seattle?--how are you?"
and he cared with his questions and I in turn with mine.
He was okay....recovering in the City that had been incinerated.
We were safe at home (physically) but the mental and emotional
healing would take many, many months.
Years. (and there would be scars).
His concern helped.

Forget everything you've ever heard about the
fright of traveling underground in those lightless places
New York--London--Tokyo
perilously passing you through the layers underneath--
there are people kind, open, friendly,
and no matter where you are
we are all the same--
especially on the subway.

Jody Lee Collins c. 2012

This is a poem about the night before September 11th.
You can read what I wrote afterwards here.

New Life NOLA

Concrete ripped and piled
Bulldozed building pieces askew,
Saltines stacked on a pile of dirt.
There is mess everywhere.

Plastic flaps outside, tucked in and under,
Protecting not much anymore.
Piles of rebar readied for foundations
Sand, rock for ballast, fill.
There is mess everywhere.

The glare of lights, warning signs,
Ominous fences.
There’s an implosion---
Destruction inside,
Overleaping, over reaching its bounds
Readying for more,
Which cannot contain all the New yet to come.

I’m a mess everywhere.
I’ve thrown open my arms,
The “I let go……”
To make room,
Allow the implosion
Destruction inside,
To wash away, be blown away
Rebuilt with the yet-to-be.

Am I ready?
But daily death yields to life and
more life.
Build, Father, Build.

The Space Between Us

The space between us, bringing comfort,

Enough room to move.

So full, yet undefined,

Gray as the future, pregnant with hope.

Did I know, declaring on that day as I did….

Could I know?

Some many days’ hence

The space between would be
          tested, tried, stretched?

Shattered, tattered at the edges,
          Torn by time,
Pulling us in directions we needn’t go?

Ah, but time, wrapping around

Us like the edges of a quilt,

Pulling the mismatched pieces back together…

Yes, time, healing all wounds

Repairing all breaches

Protecting, surrounding, preserving.

Time and grace and space.

Just enough to come between us.

Blood Flow

Blood Flow
Where does all that life go?
how far
how wide
how deep
how long
Can it truly reach?
Only through the scoured places
where channels are carved
through open wounds
with high walls,
making way for the wonder of
His life.
It will never stop--
Descending from that mountain
past temples torn in two
curtains rent, shattering rock
sailing my sin all the way
down to the sea.....

This poem is shared as part of The Warrior Poet Circle hosted by Jason S. 
More poetry is here...
                                                                    Warrior Poet Circle

Eternal Hold

"Your wait time is approximately 30 minutes..."
But the music is pleasant enough;
some piano riffs in the background
accompanying me
as I move about the house.

Thirty minutes grows like the puddle
left from a leaking pipe.
I wonder--do I have time for this right now?
Is the wait truly worth it?

It comes to me that I've misjudged forever,
timing my days by my own clock,
limiting the space with earth-bound ideas.
What is 30 minutes in an eon?
a nano-blink on the radar,
a sight gone missing in
the grand scheme of things.

no, thirty minutes is NOT forever--
we were made for much, much more.

Sharing with the folks over at dVerse Pub for Open Link night....

If Words Were Pictures

If words were pictures, I’d see them there,
A string of suspended steps
sunk into the sky.
Mine, a stairway—
I said goodbye and went on…
Climbing upward, upward.
Yours—a thousand steps, but ground-level, flat;
stretching forward in a solitary line.

You said, “I almost died,”
then put one foot in front of the other and continued to live,
one painful step at a time.
Those steps transported you away,
slowly moving forward like a train.
The rolling rumble carrying you along
as you survive, just barely.
Your words trail off in the distance
with the sorry, sad sound of worn out wheels,
and I’m left standing by the tracks
tasting smoke, listening to the faint, fading whistle
while you die.
A friend told me the other day it was finally official, the divorce papers had come.
"It's really no surprise, she said, "it was like watching something slowly die."

I thought about the last conversation I had with another friend, who ended his email with the words, "I'm still here, just hanging on."
He sounded like he was going to die--not give up the ghost and pass away--but a slow, soul death, made even more painful by his choices.
Choosing death instead of life is a series of daily decisions, slowly moving us towards God or away from Him.

There was nothing I could say that would revive him, breathe life into his grey, so I did what I normally do when I can't process life--I picked up a pencil and wrote this.
Sharing with LL for On, In & Around Mondays, and Michelle at Hear it on Sunday.

This poem is also linked to dVerse Pub for Open Link Night--more great poetry there.