Sabbath on the Page, Winter

What can you hear in a 
       winter sky? Trees
       sleeping, sap coursing
       slowly stopped by 
       these northern climes and
       their accompanying chill.
The sound of sunlight, settled
       like a theater's best ending,
       shadowplay kept for
       juncos and chickadees.
Gray like warm flannel on a 
       winter's night by the
       fire, celestial feathers
       cover like a goose's wing
       over her chicks.

I tune my pencil, painting
       this poem of treesound, cloudstill
       and year's end, listening
       for tomorrow's song.


shadows smudge on the wall
           beside me, gray on red
           as I look up, pensive,
           pen in hand to write.
how to right this over indulgence,
           too full of my own
           bloated worry?
I've buried my prayers, fed one
           saturated heart with cares
           not meant to be carried.
Fasting from the thoughts that also
           fill my brain seems a lifeline
           in this season where we're 
           drowning in too much.
I shut the door, shutter the blinds
           and feast on silence, making
           space in my waiting for the
           gift to arrive, though it tarry.
It occurs to me, that like
           the Christ child's birth,
           answers may look far
           different than I expect.
So I make room in the welcome
           dark, waiting for the light,
           which will surely dawn.
c. Jody Lee Collins, 2016


I flatten myself carpetside,
legs parallel as the lines of a crosswalk,
arms a perpendicular “T”
to my torso, aching as they
stretch (or do they stretch
and therefore ache?) Open-bodied
stance releases all weight of this weary week.
White-flagging my way to the floor
a wide space spans my once-tight
palms, now held by an invisible
silken thread index to index.
Sprung free from the web of close-in
clamoring that’s cluttered my days,
revelation arrives via the limbs.
My body remembers a vast freedom,
the lull and lilt of quiet, room to roam.
Bones at rest, eyes shuttered, the inky view
messaging my brain. Sometimes I don’t
know what I don’t know, how tightly
I’m wound until I’m undone. 
I want to live undone.

When Trees Speak

Autumn morning, eyes trained
through windows to the
shadow show on tree trunks,
crayon box colors of Fall
falling through space from now
visible branches.
Creator comes to mind, how He
carries us, colors us, covers us
with His power, the Tree the
strength, raising us Heavenward.

Sap is invisible, pulsing like a
sticky river, nourishment in its wake.
All I see is cottonwood, maple, and rarely
wonder at their strength, never
stop to remark, "would you
look at the energy feeding those trees!?"
Likewise we fuss and worry
that God may not be at work
while we grow our leaf-filled days,
falling we think, and wonder
'where is He? why isn't He
doing something?'
And all the time His constant
reliable reach pushes up and
out, earthborne sap that cannot
be stopped, no matter how our
lives fall out.

Gossamer Faith

Sir spider suspended,
but for the invisible
jarring of his aerial 
does it frighten him
to be held by
strength he cannot see,

to scuttle across the
sky, limb to leaf 
knowing the opposite 
end could detach in a blink?
Still he spins in space
hovers in my way
'til I swat him down
and lament, "My God to have 
                         the faith of a spider."

Water Carriers

Thirsty, thankful hearts
     raised, open cups held
aloft, receive the joy of song
     and words,
healed in the hearing.

We ferry the precious
bounty via voice and
tone, conduits of the balm
that is the bounty of praise,
pouring into vessels,
empty to be filled.

Parched lips receive
the draught and splash in
the glory drops, wash in
the words, bask in
the golden sound as it channels
life through the veins.

We slake the thirst and
all are watered in turn,
rivulets of your Presence
soaking like canals in the
desert, skirting the dry land.
This poem came out of a Writer's Retreat my friend Kimberlee Ireton and I led last year called "Abide."  We're meeting again this September in the Cascade Mountains of Washington--maybe you'd like to come?


Like the bound bud in the almost bloomed magnolia
there is beauty ready to burst,
tight secrets on the God side
buried within this cool, bright day.
I'm waiting, watching,
counting the sleeps
until this quiet wonder world wakes up
and I stand amazed
at the life that comes
from what was surely death
or dormancy
through all those chill & darkening days.
I ask for an eager heart as well,
listening, looking at the gate
longing for an answer,
ready for a new birth in me,
the delivery of good news
the message--just for the day--
which God speaks amidst the quiet unfurling
leafworks of Spring.
c. Jody Lee Collins 2016

Prayer Plant

I sit myself down in this place close to the light, 
darkness at the edges,
the tick, tick, ticking of night-time clocks
echoing in the quiet.
(Too loud.)
The plant's leaves behind me
unfurl towards the lamp's illumination,
artificial albeit bright.
I've noticed they're growing 
up and out, green with life
stretching for the light.
It may be time for a new home.
(Too small.)
I plant myself here couch-side
to pray, awakened by my Father.
“Tick, tick, tick”, I hear Him say, 
"make the most of the time." 
so I do, reading the Hallel Psalms,
remembering my Saviour,

(too kind) who on the night He was betrayed
left the twelve and moved to the garden
where He planted himself and prayed,
ushering in my move
from sin and death to life and freedom,
securing for both He and I (for we are kin),
our place in God's new home.

What my Grandkids will say about me on Oprah

When my grandkids talk to Oprah
    about their Nana, the famous writer,
they will say words were my oxygen--
    to read, to write, to share,
and that I spent way too much money
    at Thrift Stores on books by dead authors--
Emily Dickinson, George Herbert, LM Montgomery
    and Keats.

They will also tell her I loved to sing--
    another form of breathing--
and how I embarrassed them in public
    by belting out the "Tomorrow" song from Annie
or grabbing their elbows in the mall
    while shouting "We're off to see the Wizard!"

They will announce to the world,
    in front of God and everybody,
that my profession as a teacher was their   
    greatest undoing;
constantly coaching them about penmanship,
the correct formation of the letter "a"
    or while reading, pointing out misread syllables in
    a favorite text.

They will oblige Ms. O's prodding by adding the death 
that I couldn't help myself when it came to learning,
    revealing in hushed tones I often resorted
    to using an encyclopedia as torture 
    (the 1956 World Book edition).

My grandchildren will remind her, however,
    (before the commercial break)
my best qualities were the way I delighted in the world,
    showing them wonders in the garden,
surprises in the grass, the avian miracles of
    chickadees and juncos in the branches 
    or robins in the birdbath.

Most of all, when my grandkids talk to Oprah,
    they will tell her my lungs longed for the breath of
    Heaven, the Word, and how its oxygen proved
    my greatest life support throughout my livelong days.
c. Jody Lee Collins 2016

Poets at Play--An Interview with Laurie Klein

Laurie Klein and I first met online after I'd been following her work in print for a number of years. We share a common decade and a love of poetry and song. I then discovered she was blogging and we've been corresponding ever since.
Laurie is the author of the prize-winning chapbook 'Bodies of Water, Bodies of Flesh' and the classic praise chorus ''I Love You, Lord.'' Her poems and prose have appeared in many publications, including Ascent, The Southern Review, Atlanta Review, Terrain, and the Holman Personal Worship Bible. She is a recipient of the Thomas Merton Prize for Poetry of the Sacred.
Her most recent release in the Poemia Poetry Series from Cascade Books is  "Where the Sky Opens".

Here are a few questions and answers so you can get to know Laurie, a Poet at Play. (for the other poets interviewed on this blog, click here.)

1) Tell me about your writing path--how did it lead you to where you are today?
Twenty years ago, sadness launched my writing path; death and depression arrived, pushing me on my journey.  Losing my dad in 1996 propelled me into journaling, then poetry. There was lots of baggage to sort through. Literally everyone in my family died, except for my sister, who beat breast cancer, twice.
But here’s the godsend: Two friends with MFAs mentored me, in poetry and prose during that time. Eventually, we co-founded a print litmag called Rock & Sling: A Journal of Literature, Art and Faith and ran it against all odds for five years.

2) Have you had any other 'careers' other than writer? or perhaps some that dovetailed with that vocation?
I feel outrageously lucky in the work opportunities I’ve enjoyed. Former jobs fed my word banks, my ‘image archives.’

Teacher: I taught in preschools, then as a Theatre Arts adjunct at Whitworth University in Spokane, WA, never suspecting commonalities between these age groups. 

Freelance Professional Storyteller: I performed in schools, churches, community centers, writer’s conferences, and retreats, in the States as well as Thailand, England, and Germany.

Program Director at Calvary Chapel: Remember Deborah of old, who had “a heart for the willing volunteers”? I loved directing and wrote drama sketches our creative team synced with thematic music and stage sets. Several full-length musicals followed.

Audiobook Narrator: I’ve narrated fifty or so books. When I undertook Theatre Arts study, I wanted the skills to play 100 characters. I never meant all at one time! Some novels call for that many voices. (TIP: novelists, reign in your cast if you want publication in this arena.)

Singer/songwriter and itinerant Worship Leader: My husband, Bill, and I shared this work for three decades. Four recording projects emerged from that wonderful season of life. 

3) Why poetry? Why not prose? (or do you speak both?)
Both poetry and prose say Psssst!—from different rooms in my brain. 
Prose: I enjoy personal narrative, blogging, and essay (even won the New Letters Dorothy Churchill Cappon Prize, for Creative Nonfiction). These days I find long literary essays overly strenuous and time-intensive, so a meditative piece flows more easily. I value the weekly rigor of blogging.
One finished novel keeps mum, in its lidded box. Hindsight revealed a stronger villain than heroine. But the box remains on the shelf behind me. Who knows . . .

Poetry: an ongoing experiment in song, magic, and muscle—this alchemical genre holds my heart. To regularly acquiesce poetry’s featherly touch amid its ruthless demands to drill down to the core, then enflesh the essence with just enough detail—this is living!
Composing a poem that evokes emotion, pondering, or memory in my reader means I’ve discovered something new, personally, then rendered it accessible to others.

4)  How has your relationship with Jesus affected your writing? or vice-versa?
Home base, North Star, compass rose—the more I orbit Jesus, be it alighting or immersing, the more I glimpse God and my readers. Not to mention my hourly need for grace.
A wonder junkie, I’m endlessly curious about God’s natural world, and how it speaks to us of its Maker. My husband and I have a bucket list which includes seeing all the National Parks. Many of the poems in my new book spring from flora, fauna, and landscapes relished en route.
My mate’s a pioneer; I’m a settler. Being journey mates ramps up my prayer life! Jesus reliably inspires this mind, heart, and imagination at my desk, and in the wilderness.

5) Although you've been published in many places over the years, this is your first book of just your work. This accomplishment has come a little later in your life.
What is that like for you? and how would you encourage new writers in their writing journey?

I won a chapbook contest in 2004, but yes, Where the Sky Opens is my first full-length book. A long wait. Some years after the chapbook, I hit a publishing plateau that left me bewildered. Disheartened, I quit writing. Then found I couldn’t not write.
Fine. I’d only submit to journals, anthologies. No Author’s Life for me.  But new poems kept grouping themselves. Seaming them together excited me and further mended my sadness.
Honestly? The Holy Spirit compelled me to hit “Send.” I shot high because joining The Poeima Poetry Series poets of faith felt like the double-dog dare-ya, big-deal chance of a lifetime.
A first book at my age embodies God’s sense of humor, this healing, patient, far-seeing Author of our faith stories. I needed the twenty-year apprenticeship with Him as well as with writing.
New writers, you already know the sound advice. Use what works for you, in this season of life.

Something I wish I'd known sooner?
·       Play (and rest) more than you think you should

BONUS--name your top 5 favorite poets.
This is like “name your favorite color.” I always have to add “today.” 
My 5 favorite poets and their poems this week are:
  • Kelly Agodon: Geography
  • Rainer Maria Rilke: Rilke’s Book of Hours
  • Ted Kooser: Delights & Shadows
  • Ilya Kaminsky: Dancing in Odessa
  • Mary Oliver: Felicity
You can access a FREE download of a portion of Laurie's book here. 
social media hashtag #wheretheskyopens
To purchase "Where the Sky Opens" from Cascade Books, click here.
You can find more wonder and words on Laurie's blog here. 

Kindergarten, January

I never dreamed one day
I’d be parsing a picture book
explaining to five year olds that yes,
a black man was shot
by someone who hated him 
because of the color of his skin,
and before he died he had a Dream
for children Just like them.

After the story (required),
they—with their earnest,
“was he real, teacher?” “yes, he was,”
and  me with my tears welling up,
held at bay (“I’m the grown up here, after all”)
stunned at their beautiful innocence,
so sure of what they believe
too young to know any other truth,
with their small-ish hands placed
in front of them,
like so many skin-made flowers,
a spontaneous array of color
spread across the carpet.

And their words,
Puzzling, bewildered
Again and again,
“but I’m just like her, She’s just like him.
They shouldn’t have done that.
Why did they shoot him?
We’re all just the same, teacher.”

And me shuttered speechless,
nodding, mumbling, tears on my cheeks,
Bungling words that should never be said
To five year olds, “They killed him because
They didn’t know what you know—
We’re all just the same, honey,
Yes we are.
We’re all just the same.”

©Jody Lee Collins 2016