Found Word Quadrille

An interesting prompt was put out this week in the poets pub. The prompt was to put together a poem with the first lines of the first poems of each month of 2022. I had a rough 2022, so I was unable to pull that one off, but I did use it as inspiration to take the first 44 words of the last 44 poems I put onto m\y blog. With a little rearranging, here is a quadrille written with the first words of the last 44 poems I wrote. It is a bit clunky, but it was a fun experiment. I also started too many blessing haikus with the word “may.” Those mays were a nightmare to work into the structure while making sense.

Objectively, May The Broken Friend Like What Some May Like? May The Homeless? May We? Like Problematic Broken Innkeeper May Softly Break, We May Perish. May Spring’s Crabapple Poison? May Ramen Treading? I tumbled. I Lace when I may. Oh Jesus may… Shalom may?

“Tumbling Rocks”

Some friends recently blessed me with a rock tumbler. Although it seems strange, it was quite thoughtful. I wander around in the wilderness often these days. You do not need a full wallet to enjoy the forest. You do not need a credit card to walk on stone covered beaches. Living in a space with gorges and wilderness means there are plenty of places to search for rocks.

Today the first stage of tumbling came to an end: rocks gathered on New Year’s have spent a week tumbling together through the new possibilities. I have checked on them as they tumbled through the days: rotating over and over, first visible but then swallowed in the slurry of grit and water. In time, even bits of themselves joined in the chaotic tumbling. Washed, dried, and looked over, each rock is the same yet different. With reluctance, they are tumbling again with finer grit. There is a lot of tumbling in their future.

I sympathize with a rock for the first time in my life. I journey in shoes that have walked down long roads. My feet have grown calloused only through painful blisters and my legs have known spasming muscles waking me from the deepest slumber. My heart and soul have wounds to match as the days have not been nearly as beautiful as I once imagined. There are pieces of me that I will never have back and there are edges rounded off of my heart through night after night of tumbling through life’s grit-filled wasteland. Aye, there is beauty, but that beauty has come at a great cost.

Tumbled and jostled
through the dark days and cold nights
as life grinds it all

“The Wild Woods”

As January dawns, the year behind has finally ended. There were bleak nights, broken dreams, and tears aplenty. While there was beauty, there was often grief and loss. It hurt to think of all that had been and all that would never come again.

In the woods by an isolated lake, scant days before continuing the uphill climb through my forties, an elderly dog and I meandered through the branches. January snow was unseasonably absent and there were shocks of green moss and patches of red berries everywhere. A fallen trunk shattered open to reveal the mystery born forth into the world from a single seed left behind by oblivious critters in the woods. The space is sacred and thin as I walk in lands where the natural transcends mere words.

For a while, the woods were all there was in this world. Thoughts of loss waited in the car, but in the woods there was beauty to be found, wonder to behold, and even the simple challenge of not letting the canine drag us into another bog while seeking an errant smell. For a brief hour or two, the world shrank down to a world where the brown trunks swayed only gently as the wind found only bare branches to tickle. In the wild woods, a broken heart could be whole for the eternal but brief moment where two souls simply wandered together.

The wild woods reach out:
I almost look for "fair folk"
as my heart finds peace.

My first entry in a long time with the D’verse Poets Pub. The challenge of the week is a haibun about the changing of years or what you are doing during this early part of January.

Remembering a rough year

What is freedom when life begins again?
How does one measure the ways one lives life
after all you have loved is burned in strife?
Where are the sprouted seeds in the ashes?
Is life renewed when one walks down the path
through sleet, snow, rain, thunder, and burning sun?
Is it renewed when you start to have fun?
If so, perhaps the pain was a herald.
Does the heart revive as one strikes the bag
as thuds echo and skin begins to break
while blood, sweat, and tears fall as shoulders quake?
Was it life throbbing beneath the blisters?
Is it in awe from looking at one's work
and seeing hundreds of moments you cared
writing letters from the good heart you've bared
even as it mended from shattering?
Does life grow as the shutter shares moments
where eyes opened to see good in the world?
Even as the bad news whooshed, howled, and swirled
visions of goodness just kept giving life.
Is it in sermons, poems, or rambles?
Is life found in meetings, coffee, or work?
Is it where I laughed and shared a small smirk?
Is life found in all of these good places?
Okay, it was a hard year, but not bad.
I bent and swayed: my good soul did not break
through all of the storms I stretched out to take
a bit of my soul back from the abyss.
Now a new year is about to break forth
over a good land where I will survive
and at times even slowly start to thrive
as this phoenix rises on hopeful wings

Icy Poem

Treading over these icy paths 
I feel these steps are familiar
and none strike me as peculiar
as I balance my weight.

Life itself requires close watching
as one connects as through the ice
to ground oneself in world less nice
requires careful balance.

Still, the path waits for bold and brave:
Neither under the summer sun
nor after Jack Frost's cruel fun
are things ever perfect.

One foot, one step, one day, move on.
Keep moving through the winter's cold
and face the heat with a heart bold
as you keep your balance

Dedicated to the two people riding bikes past me. Now that’s dedication and bravery. Also, one of them apparently thought it was just as ludicrous as I did by the panic and joy in her eyes.

Meeting Poetry

These haiku/tanka-formatted poems have come out of long meetings with difficult conversations around the church community. I write poetry to express feelings and thoughts that might disrupt or aggravate during meetings. I share them later, without context, for they continue to inspire me to consider what words I use, what notions I carry, and that I, too, might have blind spots.

Problematic words:
dividing with our notions
and cutting our ties
"We" "Ours" "I" "My" "Mine"
There is a space between us
that is shown in words
The apple and tree:
growing in their own spaces
but sharing some roots.
Hubris, pride, self-righteousness:
can't you see the path ahead?

Sad Poetry

Christmas has come and gone. I received one text saying merry Christmas and the 28 second phone call where am I child told me all she could do was say Merry Christmas and hang up. There were relatives standing by, I could hear them. They were the same ones who stood by and congratulated me at my wedding. The same ones who said they cared. Not a single message explaining: just the silence of complicity.

There’s a possibility I’ll see them this weekend, but I doubt it. There’s no visitation arranged for January or anytime soon. there is a motion to dismiss my case, because nothing has gone wrong since July. I was guaranteed visits, between six and twelve of them. I saw my two kids once or twice, but haven’t seen my oldest since July.

So I walk in the cold and write poetry, wondering if next year will be any different. I doubt it. In the meantime, the cold reminds me I’m still alive and the pain is lifted like a prayer. At least I have no more bruises than the ones I have on my heart

Twenty eight seconds
and one "Merry Christmas" text:
What did you expect?
Contact was all you wanted
so that's what she took away.

Will the court help me?
Does the sun rise twice a day?
That seems more likely
than for a judge to enforce
when the victim is father

Longest Night Service: Prayer Poem

Innkeeper, street vendor, wool weaver: all sleeping.
Traveler, road watcher, bread baker: all dreaming.
Carpenter, brick layer, clay potter: all dozing.
Cold shepherd, star gazer, wise midwife: wide awake.

Young soldier, wise rabbi, landowner: all abed.
Census staff, messengers, young children: all snoring.
Important, powerful, the “normal”: they miss it.
The outcast, the restless, the strange ones: they hear first.

Heartbroken, discarded, pushed away: still awake.
Broken souls, groaning ones, frightened folk: open eyes.
Mourning lives, empty chairs, lonely ones: let them see
Christmas comes first for those who need the hope’s light most.

No tinsel, no label, no price tag: love comes down.
For the lost, for the sad, for the hurt: love comes down.
Through the tears, through the dark, through the grief: love comes down.
Emmanuel, Prince of peace, Savior: Love and Light,
Meet us here where we wait, wide awake and in need.

Rev. Robert Dean, Composed December 15, 2022; First Shared at Trumansburg UMC’s Blue Christmas Service December 21, 2022;
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Sometimes I wonder

I took a long walk today, which isn’t that unusual. I followed the same route I took on the hottest day of the year. I almost passed out on that July day, but today things were fine. The wind was brisk, the air refreshing, and there wasn’t a thermometer reading three digits anywhere in sight.

I pondered my life choices as I walked. I have been waiting for several days for my attorney to draft the Court Order that will allow me to see my kids over the holidays. I haven’t seen all of my kids since July and only saw them once in the last three months despite the guaranteed joint-custody/visitation rights in the initial court order. I have been waiting and trying to be patient.

When I wait, I tend to work out more. There’s a reason I’m down nearly one hundred pounds this Christmas as I have been nervous. The thing is that sometimes my nerves make sense. It is hard to wait and it is hard to miss my kids. I often feel afraid to visit my kids as I remember things my partner has said and done over the years. Some of it wasn’t meant to be threatening, but it was frightening.

Let me give an example which has been bothering me. My former partner once told me that she highly admired the leadership style of Adolf Hitler. She actually put it in her ministerial psych exam paperwork and bragged that she wasn’t even questioned about it. Even now, it is uncomfortable sharing that idea even though I’m not the one who stated it. She claimed that it was because he was a highly motivational and effective leader, which he seemingly was given the way he reorganized his nation. The trouble is that I now wonder what effective leadership style movements someone like Hitler would use if his former partner came into town. Would it have been easier if their former partner just disappeared? It is something I think about whenever my kids have a school event. Would I come back alive this time if I went?

What’s even worse is that even as I feel frightened of the implications of adoration of someone like Hitler in a former partner, I also feel like everyone will judge me for overlooking what was, in hindsight, and enormously blaring red flag. Why didn’t I walk away that day? Why did I believe someone was loving who admired such a domineering and demented person? Why didn’t I think of that adoration of such a charismatic lunatic when everything I did was held up the ideal of what she thought was right and good?

Then the real question comes out. Could anyone love someone like me who put up with that kind of stuff? Who could love someone who not only loved such brutal efficiency but has been using it for a year and a half without any repercussions? What kind of person would love someone who put up with that kind of nonsense? What if they would only want to do so because they see an opportunity to take advantage of me? What if I escape the frying pan just to land in the fire?

All of this begs the question of “why bother?” According to Fitbit I walked over 15 miles today. I lift weights regularly and am slimming down. I put another three holes in my belt because the belt I bought that barely fit a year ago now needs to wrap around through several loops to the point where the end is approaching the small of my back. I put in the work in my long term recovery every single day, attend a fatherhood support group, and am incredibly active in my faith community. I have a lot going for me, but I wonder if I’m just putting a really nice exterior on a life that is scarred, wounded, and full of experiences that make me feel crazier than a bag full of feral cats.

What if I put in all this work and just end up dying alone? What if that’s the best option instead of inflicting myself on someone else again? I know it is the week before Christmas and I should be working on getting ready or mourning the fact my kids aren’t here, but I have to be honest and say that I’m not even sure they care about my anymore. Maybe that’s for the best. Maybe I’ll just spend the rest of my life walking here to there, lifting heavy objects, and doing my best to be of service to other people who can have the nice things like relationships that I may never have again. Maybe that should be what happens to the person who was too blinded by love to recognize the red flags in the first place.

Poem in need of expression

I don’t have my own “word salad”:
My thoughts often get quite jumbled
and forgetting leaves me humbled,
but my soul is quite clear.

I care for people with my heart
and my head runs away at times.
If that is the worst of my crimes
then let me live in peace

If I could clear out hateful words
and live as if my life mattered
instead of this feeling scattered 
I might come to find peace.

Instead I hear her voice shredding
any confident words I share
as I seek to just show I care
I hear: “its word salad”

Old boots

I have an old pair of boots that need to be resoled or replaced. Any minute now I’ll lace them up and walk the half an hour to church. Any minute now I’ll shake off these dismal thoughts about how Thanksgiving ruined my weight loss streak and finally convince myself that I don’t need to starve myself with a fast to hurry things along. Any minute now I’ll remember that I walked over nine miles yesterday and that my body needs time to process nutrients and expel waste before that shows. Any minute now sane thoughts will lace these boots. Any minute now…

Lace up your old boots:
draw tight both your loops and will.
Trudge that you might walk
down the road in warmer times
when all is finally well

A Strange Advent Feeling

I don’t really have a Christmas tree desire this year. I love a good Christmas tree and have a lot of fond memories over the years, but this year I am probably not going to put up a tree. There’s a wreath by my garage door and I’ve got my ugly Christmas sweater game on point. No tree though.

Trees are for presents. Trees are for gifts. Trees are for family and I’m not the kind of pet owner who will put presents under the tree for my dog or the fish. I’m getting presents for others, but there’s really no need for a tree.

Instead, this is the year of the Advent Wreath. I’ve put together a really cheesy electric wreath from an inexpensive five candle window candelabra. Three dollars of cheap paint and putting the “wreath” on a smart switch: we’re good to go!

As you can see, cheap is the name of the game, but the other side of things is that it is meaningful to me. Each time I have seen the wreath since I have put it up, I have begun singing the Advent Song from The Faith We Sing: “Candle, candle, burning bright: shining in the cold winter’s night. Candle, candle, burning bright: fill our hearts with Christmas light.”

I don’t need presents. but I do need light. I don’t need wrapping paper, but I do need to be wrapped in hope. I don’t need a continual reminder that there’s nobody here, but I do need to see the light growing week after week.

What do I want for Christmas? Hope, love, joy, and peace. Burn candles, burn.

Sharing a meal

I have the kids today! The only time I can see them again between now and the end of the year is if I exchange them with their morning Sunday morning at 10:00 AM two hours by car from where I have church at 10:15 AM. That part of things is awful, but today I see two of my three kids for the only time from October through December.

So, we broke out the fancy serving dishes and made macaroni and cheese with carrots and hot dogs. It seems silly to put such a simple meal in a nice dish as I never need a serving dish when alone, but this is a good silly.

Break out the good plates:
garnish with tasty extras
and join your children.
To eat while you're not alone
is a fleeting gift these days.

The Stumbling Block

I wrote this poem while thinking of the passage from Matthew 18:6-9, which says that it is better to be drown in the sea than to cause someone else to stumble. I am trying to come to a place of peace with the frustration which is continuing to take root in me despite my best efforts. I am working as hard as I can to burn off the anger through diet, exercise, and even spiritual disciplines, but there are times when things are simply wrong and more than an irritation. There are times when people do real harm to you and that pain becomes a thorn in the side that will not go away.

Even if there may be divine punishment for the person who causes another person to stumble, it still hurts deeply to be the person with broken toes, scraped knees, and a noticeable limp. I don’t doubt for a second that all that is happening is noticed and noted in the Book of Life and any equivalent book with opposite purpose. It would still be nice if there could be some relief.

Broken heart longs for them
The hugs, smiles, and dumb jokes
as joy is hard to coax
when you're alone

Prayers flow as I walk
Burn the anger with fat.
I look more and more flat
but rage lives on.

Walking, praying, fasting:
I curse this stumbling block
as on the Door I knock
and ask for help.

Even so, upon further reflection, a better passage to consider might be Romans 14:12-19 which is far more balanced in perspective. What I mean by balanced is that Paul does a decent job in Romans in balancing the concerns. Yes, it is wrong when someone else causes us harm, but Paul writes in a way that invites people to look inside before looking at one’s neighbor. It is not right for your neighbor to harm you, but first consider whether or not you will be ashamed when you give your account to God about how you lived your life and what you did, which is different from what your neighbor did to you.

So, how do I live with this pain in my side and sorrow in my heart? I see wisdom in Paul’s words in 2nd Corinthians 12:7-12. I have asked time and time again for this thorn to be removed, but it hasn’t budged. I guess that God’s strength is shown in my weakness, so I’ll keep trudging down the road while remembering the simple truth from a few verses earlier in Romans 14:7-10:

“We don’t live for ourselves and we don’t die for ourselves. If we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we belong to God. This is why Christ died and lived: so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living. But why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you look down on your brother or sister? We all will stand in front of the judgment seat of God”

Romans 14:7-10, Common English Bible

This life I live with thorn-gifted pain is the life that I have to live. My “neighbor” may look at me with disdain or judgment, keep me from my children in defiance of the court order, and teach them that it is dangerous to speak with me (since I might call Child Protective Services if something goes wrong and the kids are in danger). Even with that sorrow and pain, I am called to live, so I will live. When the day of my death comes, even if I am alone I will die in the Lord with hope in my heart that:

“We have access by faith into this grace in which we stand through him, and we boast in the hope of God’s glory. But not only that! We even take pride in our problems, because we know that trouble produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope. This hope doesn’t put us to shame, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

Romans 5:2-5, Common English Bible

Thorn in my side or not, I will live in hope and I shall not be ashamed of the Lord. I will seek hope all of my days, even with broken bones in my soul, for God loves me and will make all of this right one day. Even with broken places in my soul, I am still fearfully and wonderfully made and God loves me. I am God’s child and I trust that my Parent will hold me as close as I wish I could hold my children.

Post-Court Lament

I should change my name.
"Curse God and die already."
Job’s name would fit well,
as I, also, do refuse
to give in to the sorrow.

Here I sit in ash:
Emmanuel hear my cry.
As sun sets again,
I would prefer a whirlwind
to agonizing silence.

Peaceful night

The wind shifts the leaves
The moon dimly glows this night
as peace covers all

No rude words out there
No deeds to fear in this home
Peace swaddles with hope

October has been Domestic Violence Awareness month since it was first introduced by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence in 1981. Regardless of the month, domestic violence is never okay, no matter the circumstances. If you or someone you know is in desperate need of help, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224.

It is okay

I worked a lot today. I wrote over 40 letters to people in my church, prepared the slideshow for tomorrow, and designed and rendered the pre-church video slideshow. My fingers hurt and my back aches from inactivity after only walking around four miles and sitting so much.

I want to post every day this month for domestic violence awareness, but I don’t think I have a poem with me and I know I don’t have a long drawn out dissertation based on some part of the Book of Resolutions or the Book of Worship.

What I do have is my own character and experience. I had a long conversation yesterday with someone going through similar life circumstances. We were talking about how it is so easy to lose hope or to be swallowed by anger. I am fortunate enough to have a religious belief system that’s big enough and broad enough to allow me to give to God the things that I can’t always carry, like my anger or frustration.

It isn’t much for tonight, but I can offer this little bit of wisdom to people going through similar circumstances . You don’t have to carry everything all the time. You can let go of your anger, frustration, or even hatred for a few minutes and it will be okay.

If you’re religious like me, perhaps you can trust your higher power to carry your burdens for a little bit. If you’re not religious, maybe it is okay to take a few minutes and watch a funny movie or call a friend to share a cuppa coffee. You don’t have to carry everything all the time, especially things as painful and toxic as anger.

Friends, perhaps we don’t have to be fancy tonight. Rest up for tomorrow is coming.


October has been Domestic Violence Awareness month since it was first introduced by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence in 1981. Regardless of the month, domestic violence is never okay, no matter the circumstances. If you or someone you know is in desperate need of help, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224.

It is okay

I worked a lot today. I wrote over 40 letters to people in my church, prepared the slideshow for tomorrow, and designed and rendered the pre-church video slideshow. My fingers hurt and my back aches from inactivity after only walking around four miles and sitting so much.

I want to post every day this month for domestic violence awareness, but I don’t think I have a poem with me and I know I don’t have a long drawn out dissertation based on some part of the Book of Resolutions or the Book of Worship.

What I do have is my own character and experience. I had a long conversation yesterday with someone going through similar life circumstances. We were talking about how it is so easy to lose hope or to be swallowed by anger. I am fortunate enough to have a religious belief system that’s big enough and broad enough to allow me to give to God the things that I can’t always carry, like my anger or frustration.

It isn’t much for tonight, but I can offer this little bit of wisdom to people going through similar circumstances . You don’t have to carry everything all the time. You can let go of your anger, frustration, or even hatred for a few minutes and it will be okay.

If you’re religious like me, perhaps you can trust your higher power to carry your burdens for a little bit. If you’re not religious, maybe it is okay to take a few minutes and watch a funny movie or call a friend to share a cuppa coffee. You don’t have to carry everything all the time, especially things as painful and toxic as anger.

Friends, perhaps we don’t have to be fancy tonight. Rest up for tomorrow is coming.


October has been Domestic Violence Awareness month since it was first introduced by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence in 1981. Regardless of the month, domestic violence is never okay, no matter the circumstances. If you or someone you know is in desperate need of help, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224.

A Poem born from Lamentations

The other day I shared a blessing from the United Methodist Book of Worship “For a Victim or Survivor of Crime or Oppression.” Since that day I have been working toward raising awareness by writing poetry based on the suggested poetry found in that blessing.

Today I wrote a poem based on Lamentations 3:1-24, which can be found in the Common English Bible through this hyperlink. As I pondered the reading, it seemed pretty dark at first. I was wondering what the compilers of the Book of Worship were thinking until I came across the shift from verses 19-24, which I found startling and incredibly powerful.

Verse 19 compares the feelings of homelessness and affliction to being poisoned to the brim with bitterness. I understood those feelings as I consider my past. I remember more than the feelings that came about in the first days after I filed for divorce. I remembered tears from a broken heart behind closed doors, sodden pillowcases, and the bitter feeling of knowing that promises made at the altar meant nothing. The shame, the guilt, the uselessness, and futility still come to mind easily even after time has begun to heal my wounds.

After all of this comes to mind, does Jeremiah give up hope? No, instead the very pain in Jeremiah’s soul transforms from a place of broken doubt to a place of stubborn waiting. The grief and loss do not translate into a faithless existence but into a spirit that will steadfastly wait for God to act. This! This is a feeling I know! “Waking” after sleepless nights, pulling on my boots, and stepping into my role as a minister with all of the confidence I could despite my own sorrow. This I know!

Helping church members say goodbye to loved ones with the compassion that comes from knowing what it is like to come home to an empty home! That was an act of faithful waiting! Sharing communion with people with the understanding that comes from knowing what it means to share a “meal” with others when you eat alone the rest of the week. That was an act of faithful waiting! Listening to the troubles of others knowing what it is like to have nobody at home to listen to my struggles. That was an act of faithful waiting!

Even now, I wait. The poem I wrote is as much a prayer for God to act as it is a piece of poetry inspired by this passage. I hope it is helpful and brings to mind the reality that brokenness does not mean that healing is beyond you.

"Homeless and poisoned in my inmost soul"
I ponder the broken and sleepless nights.
Endless tears fell into fathomless hole
as I thought of all of my stolen rights.

Future empty and present in shambles,
hopeful words called out from the ancient past
before wounds left me with frothing rambles:
that place where only ashes seem to last.

I remember the hope flickering faint.
I beheld the light that would not go out.
Even shattered, the call to be a saint,
not of perfect life, but one lived through doubt.

I remember and still I sit and wait
for the Just One to come bearing our fate.

October has been Domestic Violence Awareness month since it was first introduced by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence in 1981. Regardless of the month, domestic violence is never okay, no matter the circumstances. If you or someone you know is in desperate need of help, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224.