Planets of a Soul

“Planets of a Soul” was born out of a season of restlessness and fear. Like many Christians, I often feel torn between the weight of my own thoughts and desires and the weight of the Gospel; although the message of Jesus is beautiful and life-giving, it is not easy. Many of my conversations with God wrestle with how hard He is to follow, but every time I am still convicted of how much better it is to trust in the hardness of Jesus rather than imploding by myself.

As I contemplated this, an image of a chaotic, disintegrating universe came to mind and I was struck by how much each human soul is like a universe all its own. Scholars more learned than I could probably trace this idea from Plato to C.S. Lewis and beyond, and, while I’d love to pretend that this poem was a meticulously constructed synthesis of the ideas of such great minds, it is no such thing; I simply wrote what I saw and felt. Hopefully, there is some grain of truth in it.

What fills in the gaps of a
Fractured soul – a fractured universe?
They are one and the same. 
The vacuum left by pieces of identity
Pulling apart either fills with stars
Or black holes.
But what happens when the planets collide,
When orbits degrade, when galaxies unravel
Into chaos?
The spheres of a mind torn by fear 
Are powerless to stop their own destruction.
The collision course has already been set.
Even the purest atmospheres,
The sweetest thoughts
Cannot stop hot, dark ideas from tearing
Through the space of the soul
Without gravity, without order, all is lost.
So does a heart implode on itself.
My universe is bleeding.
God, can You fix gravity before it is too late?
Can You change black holes into stars,
Turn planets back to their orbits?
 	*	*	*
If repentance is a turning, I don’t see
How a planet could stop itself from
Turning back again.
Maybe I’m turning around the wrong
Stars altogether. Maybe my
Solar system will die anyway,
Even if it’s perfectly ordered.
Order means nothing
Unless the Son gives light.
But I fear Your rays are
Too strong for me.
What am I to do?
I implode on my own, I explode with You.
I hate both options.
But I suppose I would rather 
Burn quickly than suffocate slowly.
*	*	*
Then again, maybe a soul cannot be destroyed,
But only change form.
Planets cannot be protected,
But their remnants can turn to
Shooting stars, bathing new skies
With Light, power, and dreams.
So re-form me, Father,
Show me a better universe – 
Give me new stars to sing about – 
And give me the courage
To break and burn 
in the Light of  Your Son.

Notre Dame

The following is a moving and convicting tribute to Notre Dame, composed while she was burning and the world was watching. The poet employs beautiful language, as well as a well-known prayer to synthesize culture, emotion, history, faith, and philosophy in only these few stanzas.

One red flame is lit among the shambles
The white, wet water lilies choke
A torn blue mantle tossed among the brambles
Shrinks and burns and blackens in the smoke.
The feast of God is eaten by pagans and neglect conjures up
The wide, white demon of a smoky Mephistopheles—
Again the Maid is burning at the stake.
Another linchpin snaps in fracticals
While earth tetters on a limping axil
The orbits of the world in jeopardy,
I set my place for morning tea.
Hail Mary, Full of Grace, The Lord is with thee.
Five past eight must be the hour of her decision.
Walsingham and Guadalupe make their intersessions
And turn their maiden eyes to the Isle de la Cite.
The sun sets over Orléans, and Paris passes into darkness,
Save the specter of a flame-licked spire
Teetering like the steady stars.
From some ancient corner of the nave I hear the Maid calling out:
Hold high the cross that I may see it through the flames
While a red-hot Carolingian beam crashes down
For the first time in eight centuries.
In a stunned half second half the world is silent
While the empty Temple of kings and clerics
Burns through the night like the shrines of Childeric
Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Already I imagine the sterile, angular promontory
That will be your successor
Towering like some brutalistic savior;
Sculpted by a well-meaning socialist
In happy service to his motherland.
I am already assured by my betters that
Our imitation game will be sincere;
That my trembling hand will be held
While any memory of that shimmering spire
Fades like the foggy breath of the Seine
In the first glimpses of the April sun.
Across the river, ten thousand candles keep a different flame
And ten thousand mourners line the streets
As if to bid a queen goodbye—
Silent mourners who expect mortality of men,
But not of churches.  They sing.
Je vous salue, Marie. Pleine de grâce
And they ask Our Lady the burning question:
“Will you demand to exist?”
Will you listen while we ask you why?
Are you mortal?  Can you die?
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of death.

A Sonnet for My Son, Should He Cry

This poem was penned on an airplane. Something about a baby’s cry in that crowded sky-bus at so-many-thousands of feet inspired me; I wanted to write something for him in language that he could grow into, think over, and pray with over time. So, I took out my phone, opened my memos, and thought of my son.

For all the weary weight you may carry,
Know no burden lighter than lifted eye.
When firsthand you feel Earth heave, Hope tarry,
Clutch tight her broken wings and, in Faith, fly.

From above all is small, though wounds be raw;
Doubt toward his wounds til in His yours you see.
Lead-weighed happiness doubled by grey awe
Oft finds befitting shade under Christ’s tree.

So, bow your bruised heart, and, if needed, bend
Your eyes above, looking down on lowly Death.
Find Grace in your tears, which both pierce and mend,
And all the lonely cries you cry catch breath.

When your sadness swells with heartstrings de-strung,
God grant you peace in your sorrow, my son.

Immediately: Eight Poems on the Gospel of Mark

Healing is a theme central to the incarnation; instances of healing in the gospels demonstrate the relationship of body and spirit, the lordship of Christ, and the faith of the broken.

The following eight poems, written in free verse, provide a means of contemplating the marvelous physical and spiritual recreation found in Mark. The recurring use of the word ‘immediately,’ is used as a unifying device in both these poems and their corresponding verses, which ought to be read in harmony whenever possible.


I. The Woman (Mark 5:21-34)

The crowd is throbbing
as my pain is

I have not come this far in years:
twelve years.
I cannot help them now-
begin to flow,
Flow as the blood has
for twelve years.

I am so close,
but still feel so far and fears
overcome me
as people surround me.

They know.
They all know.

I see their glances:
quick, horrified, averted.
I want to scream:
“Yes! See! See my shame!
See and tell me,
you proud, you healthy,
Is it my fault?”

But instead I fall
to my knees
and stay bent
beneath the weight of despair

But my eyes remain fixed
before me, ahead.

I am fallen
and aching,
but I am not yet dead.

My eyes catch
on a figure weaving
through this throbbing, living sea.

As I rise to walk,
my vision fades.
I stretch my hand and fumble feebly forward…

A hem.
All I seek.

A hem to hem me behind and before
In healing safety.

My finger brushes
the rough cloth
not even for a breath,
but mine returns


Blood dries.
Sight clears.

Love and hope and peace
are all that flow
not from, but over


I am again on my knees,
not for lack of strength
but faith.

I tremble.
Yet this fear is new,
as I am new…


I cannot help
but want to sing,

“Oh, see! See! My shame undone!
See and know!
The saving One!”



II. The Man with the Withered Hand (3:1-6)

My bones lament
with hunger.
My eyes grow dim
from watching— 
watching and waiting
for nothing,

Who would help me today?
The sad irony of the Lord’s Day.

Synagogues and pockets full,
but hearts emptier than my good hand.

At least I would to fill mine;
another sad irony,
for I cannot.

I cannot even reach out
to work or to beg.

Why bother anyway?
You cannot pour from empty jars
and a broken pot like me—
a withered hand like mine—
holds nothing.

Yet here I am,
still waiting.
Waiting for someone
to heal and fill.

And then, “Come here.”

I lift my head.

A hand, not mine, reaches
as I cannot.

An order next:
“Stretch out your hand.”

Will the cruelty ever end?
Why does he mock me?

But then,


I watch fingers uncurl, lengthen.
Nails harden.
Palm fattens.
Muscles strengthen.

And it is my hand,
yet not my hand that is—


Opened and held out
for me.

The skin is softened,
like my heart.


As limb is healed,
I am no longer empty.
And I grasp the truth
that hard hearts are whole jars,
but easily shattered.

Mine beats and bends as my knuckles
to take in life.


Hand in his,
I am sustained
and can sustain.

Oh, happy day!
Oh, sad irony cured



III. Jairus’ Daughter (5:35-43)

“Daughter, your faith has made you well,”
I hear the man say
to a woman kneeling.

Dealing with these commoners
must be tiresome.
Some call him Teacher, after all.
He could be as me:
lofty, a ruler.

I turn away,
but hear it again,
the word I hold dear:


Someone clutches my arm.
I am clutched by fear.


In her bed.

Not sleeping?

No, nor breathing.

I stagger.
A gasp as one struck
escapes my throat.

A wordless cry,
yet I know he will hear.

Common or not,
I have to try.
My girl cannot just

A man holds me back.

“Why trouble the Teacher?”

But I cannot just leave her.
And He heard,
and He knew
what had happened
and what I felt.

And He came.

“Do not fear. Only believe.”

But can words alone dry
a father’s tears?

I know it is not sleep.

But then,
He spoke again,
in His lullaby voice:
“Talitha cumi,”
He tells her, arise.


Quicker than on holiday mornings,
she does.

Eyes bright, arms outstretched
to wrap around
my once-stiff neck.


My daughter
is born to me a second time
of the water I wept.


She stands and,
laughing for joy,
we dance.


The Teacher, True Ruler,
awakes daughter and father
and mourning dawns as morning



IV. The Leper (1:40-45)


I hide myself
lest I am seen
and sent away,
purged from the city
while dogs and rats
are allowed to stay.

But they say
I am unclean
and I do not argue;
I am an unlucky one
who cannot hide his sins
beneath a cloak of
smooth, clear skin.

I am as unclean
outside as within,
so I conceal my body,
but my spirit I’ll bear
as an offering.

The sacrifice of Psalmist’s praise
is not made of a lovely face,
but a contrite heart—
a heart such as mine.

Perhaps my only organ spared
but even it is broken.
Its pieces cry out
with my failing limbs:

but yearning,
I step out:
painfully, timidly,
from where I’ve been
hiding, waiting, dying,
decaying while still alive.

To my knees
I sink before You
to present my pitiful lot
before You.

Its package fails, unclean,
but if you will…

You will?
Can it be?

At your word,
at your touch—

Ah, how long since I’ve been touched!
Oh fearful joy!


I am clean.

From that gentle press of the fingertips,
life springs.


I feel it.
I feel it in nerves revived:
shivering, pulsing,
skin reforms before my eyes.

But even more—


My mangled heart,
laid at Your feet,
is touched too,
molded and cradled,
by hands invisible.


I stand humbled without shame:
Purified shell, Sanctified soul.

I am wonderfully remade
and run to present my whole self



V. The Paralytic (2:1-12)

People just keep going
around, across, any way they can,
stepping over me even.

But what can I do?

Nothing but what I am doing:
lying here, still,
in one piece
yet shattered,
beneath the weight
of despair

And at the same time

Lying here, I can recall
when lying was pleasant:
with words to fool
or women to love
in secrecy.

I fight a bitter laugh.
Is it not funny how desires
so frequently
turn to damnation
in a single, fateful

The crowd is thick.
I watch as someone trips
over the legs I no longer
think of as my own.

As I am carried to the roof,
still in my bed,
the thought crosses my mind
that falling would not be so bad,
but even my end
is not in my power.

They lower me down.
A face comes into view
looking down,
but not in pride
or pity.

His eyes are sad
as if he sees
the past I wish to hide.

“Son,” he says, claiming me.
“Your sins are forgiven.”


Though my body remains still,
my heart leaps
and my soul rises.


Outrage erupts around,
but I hear only one voice:
The Authority
Who speaks again.


I obey.
Could I ignore
the One who says,
“Rise and walk”
without a hint
of mocking
or madness?


I stand and take my bed.
No more lying for me.
Walking even is not enough
if it is not with Thee.

In your movements,
Your dance,
I will follow


VI. The Deaf Man (7:31-37)

I cannot tell
what these gestures mean.
Why do you all wave
your hands at me?

I can only guess at
the words on your lips
and can only make
vain attempts
to do as you do,
to speak as you speak.

By your wrinkled brows
and worried looks,
I know I am failing.

Where are you taking me?
Who is this man?

Oh, do not leave me!
I cannot understand
your mute tongues,
but do not forsake me!

Where is he taking me?

I try to shout,
but fall into silence,
not that I am ever not
in that painful, ringing

We stop when the crowd
is out of sight.

The man reaches out.

I flinch,
expecting a blow,
as from the cruel youths
who see me as a game,
an uncomplaining beast.

But no blow comes:
just a soft warmth
as He covers the sides of my head
and the tip of my tongue
with His hands.

Eyes wide, bewildered,
I watch.

He sighs.
I feel His breath on my face
and see Him mouth a word.

No— more!
More than see!


Before the word
has flown from His lips,
I hear.

I hear it!


As He speaks,
“Be opened,”
I hear!

And I realize the crowd
is out of earshot
as well as sight.


My newborn ears
are tuned to one voice.
I do what is natural,
though moments ago,

I shout and proclaim
of hearing and healing



VII. The Blind Man (8:22-26)

“Touch me, someone!
So I might know you are there!”

Greet me, anyone!
So I am not alone,

Isolated in my own darkness,
I am begging,
begging for more than food
or loose coins you can spare.

It is light that I am starving for—
a light to show me out,
out of this eternal, internal,
personal night.

My heart yearns
morning and evening,
though both are to me
the same.

Oh, I shudder.
The chill of winter
and aches of hunger
are nothing
to this infinite imprisonment
within myself.

I cry out again—
Perhaps someone will reply—
“Oh, stranger friend,
whoever among you, passersby,
has any pity
I entreat you
to touch me,
hear me,
see me.
See me, if I cannot
see you.

But what’s this?
I start as a hand
descends and draws me.

My pleading fades.
I follow in silence,
though I know not
who leads me.

Then a pressure
against my eyes,
those shuttered windows
to my lonely soul.

Next a voice asking,
“Do you see?”


I am blinded
no longer by darkness,
but by light:
Dazzling and radiant.


I answer,
“I see, people?
Or are those trees?”

I blink and try again.


The man’s hands
descend once more,
unfogging the glass,
this time completely.


I see and am seen.
Freed, freed!
Released from my prison
where I grieved
in midnight black—
Oh, at last:

The Son is shining and I see,



VIII. The Demon-Possessed Boy (9:14-29)

There is no other name
for the things I have seen,
and sat helplessly by:

My son —
My son.
Ripped from my arms
by a force I could not fight.

I am his father!
Guilt claws at my chest,
cuts like a knife.
But how can I defend when
the enemy, the invader
wages war from within?

Within my own flesh and blood,
my beloved,
my son.

He cast himself into flames
too quick for me to quench,
then plunged into the water
kept for this fire.

I am but man
a body of dust.
How could I conquer a spirit
when my own is worn
and weary
and losing

Alas! Why do you come,
you crowd, seeking spectacle?
You do not want to see
what daily seeks,
through my son,
to destroy me:

Demon Doubt
grapples for my soul
as the other strangles my son’s life
with his own fingers.

His demon casts him down,
frothing, convulsing.
Mine pulls me too,
but before it succeeds,
I cast myself down
in desperation
at Your feet.

Before the growing crowd,
before You, Lord:
“I believe, but oh!
Help my unbelief!”


Stillness falls.

Has death come?
Merciful relief?
Dare I hope for better?
It seems beyond belief
and yet…


Quiet reigns
where screams once were
and peace floods my soul,
at once burning fear,
quenching doubt,
as two evils are expelled,
far, far from here.


Your hand raises him,
the Son returns my son
back to the arms
from which he was torn.
And in that moment,
two faiths are born


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