Clothes for a Strong Woman

The other day I watched my friend try on some new clothes.

Nearly ten years in full habit with the sisters

had changed her form,

softened and mellowed her character,

and added a layer of seriousness to her heart.

But she was still the same girl that I knew in school,

ready for fun and adventure at every turn;

ridiculously joyful.

But now a new call to serve the world

required a change of clothes.

Among a few small piles of slacks and sweaters

that serve as her first set of working clothes,

I tried to give her advice about what the modern woman wears.


The fashion show that I’ve been watching

follows a young designer who is continually praised

for creating clothes for strong women.

Ninja spy assassins and warrior princesses

are her inspiration.

Bold, confident, and a force to be reckoned with,

her woman makes a mark on the world;

she runs the company and sets the trends

or doesn’t care enough what other people think

to follow the rules of conformity.


But what can I tell her,

she whose bravery to step out into a new path

after so many years within her religious community

astounds and inspires me.

Only that her black tunic and veil

when she first donned them

were symbols of her courage and freedom.

But then, so too are these indistinct pieces of business apparel.


Oh my dear,

it doesn’t matter what you wear,

your strength itself is a enough.


1,000 Pieces

I took apart a puzzle today
to clear off the coffee table
and clean up the living room.

Watching the picture crumble apart in my hands
and disappear into overturned pieces
and scattered images

felt like stealing the truth.

light and guard, rule and guide

what must it be like
to let the tragedy of death
befall us;
to stand back
and watch as we experience
what they have been keeping us from
all our lives.

what a strange moment —
the sorrow and the anguish
of letting us die
and the joy of meeting,
of the first look in our eyes
when we are able to look back into theirs,

and they can finally bring us
away from this world
and into the next,
the one where we have always belonged.

Piano Sonata No. 11 in A Major

Piano Sonata No. 11 in A Major
always brings to mind
a certain game of Tetris
played in childhood on our family computer
— the astronaut level, or maybe it was
the Russian hockey player scene,
so difficult in speed that it seemed the pieces
had a magnetic pull to the bottom of the screen
and only great dexterity and mental acuity
could win a higher score than my sibling opponents.

I’m sure that’s what Mozart had in mind
when he composed the Turkish march so many years ago–
that the ballerinas flouncing around the stage
would eventually begin falling into formations
of twos and threes,
possible even long contingents of four,
in their matching tutus
as they pas de bourrée and jettée across the floor
until the whole cast had clumped together
in one mass of pointed toes and arched arms,

White Coat

I saw a man wearing a white coat
out while running errands today
and it reminded me of when
you put on your white coat for me

still a student making rounds
in the thick of med school
and the Louisiana bayou heat

you picked it up off the coat rack
and shrugged it on
somehow trying to reveal a part of yourself
that I never got to see

and I wondered what it would be like
to welcome you home every day
when you could take off this other life
and hang it up by the door


I am the sacrifice of Elijah,
a young bull laid on the altar
with water twelve jars full
poured out over, trenches catching
and brimming with all that
the saturated wood could not hold.

And Elijah watches, matches laid aside,
staying his hand from starting any flame,
so that when Your fire comes down,
engulfing my heart with a love so strong
so as to outlast any earthly trial,
he will know that it was only by Your hand.