poems and songs by John McDonnell (1946- )

Drury, Kansas
Saint Patrick
Palm Reader

Song Suite No. 1
__Irish Fairies
__Pamela Bourne
__Garden Flowers
Song Suite No. 2
__Jesus Felt
Song Suite No. 3
__Garden Song
__Ocean Song
__Marching Song

Empty House
To William A. Albrecht
Blue-tailed Skink
Aerial Photograph

I Am the Land America
Baby Blessing
For My Wife's Ordination
Nephi's Vision
Behold the Children
Isaiah's Vision
Three Dreams

photograph of the 1883 mill at Drury, Kansas, before it was destroyed by fire in 1953 (the stone
portions of the mill, now nearly gone, were still standing when "Drury, Kansas" was written)

Drury, Kansas (1966)

King of grains, buffed yellow and waving,
Red-brown earth, soft-powdered and craving
For thunderstorms' streams
And white moonbeams
And luminous blue sky
With the sun hot and high.

Kansas wheat, bleached light, dry, and swishing,
Late-spring air, blown gently, but wishing
For violent storms
And rising warms
And cumulous white clouds
In the sun casting shrouds.

Harvest wheat, brushed rusty and dusty,
Red-orange sky, rushed gusty and lusty
For all that I love
The beauty of
The old Drury mill
Reflecting the sunset still!

That mill has ground its last wheat harvest.
Though this mill has not, its eyes are west.
I recline in thought in the sunset's haze,
Lost in memories, dreaming of gone days.

Saint Patrick (1974)

An all-honey stream
Was my golden destination,
Fallen angels in Ireland
Charmed my imagination,
Until I learned the voice of God
And feet in preparation shod.

Honeyed dreams of love
Descend to cares diurnal.
Devils rage in Ireland
Inspiring wars infernal.
Repentant now I teach the way
That hastens on that vernal day

When human love shall bloom
In perfect tenderness,
And angels stand in Ireland
Teaching harmlessness,
When men go up to learn of Christ,
Yea, learn in happiness of Christ.

Oread (1991)

On the leeward slope of the south wind's rage
Shadows of trees were washing with waters
The campus lights of a populous age
Down in a pondering lake called Potter's.

Through the heaving rush campanile sounds
Mingled in moods of maundering musing.
An elf-eared nymph pirouetting the grounds
Flitted past courts of abandoned choosing.

Many years ago someone named the place
For this unknown, anonymous numen.
Her buoyant leaps and her innocent face
Startle beholders whose traits are human.

The scholar's brusque treatment of Oread's rough:
"A mountainous myth! and this mountain's a bluff!"
But for those whose eyes dilate when breezes are airy,
Dance, gentle nymph, in your haunt of the prairie!

Palm Reader (1995)

A little girl sat next to me,
In silence held my nearest hand.
She peered into its palm and wept.
I wonder whether she could see
Back then my present, understand
What I must face but can't accept.
Perhaps that would explain her tears,
A vision of my tragic years.

If so, what leaves my soul aghast
Was long ago within some scheme
To test my soul beyond its strength.
That reading of my palm, long past,
Is like a sign within a dream,
On waking, thought about at length.
Although my presence isn't much,
With joy I breathe the air I touch.

Humbled (1996)

My glory was my colored wings
On which I soared from flower to flower
Till someone reached and pinched them fast
And held me helpless in his power.

His grasp rubbed scales of color off,
But made it seem it was my fault
Because I thrashed and struggled so,
Then dropped me humbled, fearful, halt.

Perhaps my wings had lift enough.
I was too shocked to try them then.
Ashamed, I crawled away on dirt
And feared I'd never fly again.

Through autumn winds that blow dead leaves
I drag my shredded wings that feel
A useless burden I must bear.
Once damaged, they can never heal.

My glory's gone, the winds are cold,
And look, I fly amidst dead leaves
That flutter till they finally rot,
A loss of dullness no one grieves.

Dryad (1996)

One wandered through enchanted woods
In which a nymph might dwell unseen,
A thought that stopped one's lonely pace
To kneel ashamed and feel most keen
The curse that moved one to this place.

"All violated beauty's lost
"Except what's left to be transformed,
"And were there eyes with satyr gleams,
"Then hatred that you shrieked alarmed,
"Then choked-out breath to stop your screams?

"Have mercy, dryad of these woods,
"On one who wanders here forlorn.
"My tragic life was victim of
"A priestcraft trait that I must scorn
"As out of touch with Christian love,

"Yet I'm the one left out of touch."
To this the nymph, if she exists,
Would show or sound no clear reply
Unless it was in moving mists
Or in a near crow's stunning cry.

Song Suite No. 1

Irish Fairies (1965)

When Ireland fell from Heaven,
An island green was made,
And all the elves and fairies
Descended to its shade.
So in the green of Ireland
Don't be surprised to see
A fairy making pollen cakes
and flower nectar tea.
1994 tune by John McDonnell

2016 bagpipe arrangement by John McDonnell

Pamela Bourne (1964)

Pamela, I shall always love you,
Although I don't know where you are,
For in your heart there is sunshine always,
And its rays can be felt from afar.
1964 tune by John McDonnell

Garden Flowers (1967)

Someone keeps this garden,
The flowers are all in bloom,
And yet deserted is the house
And empty every room.
Others pick the flowers,
But I stand back in fear,
For someone keeps this garden
And all the flowers here.
1994 tune by John McDonnell

2016 bagpipe arrangement by John McDonnell

Song Suite No. 2

Reflection (1983)

1989 music by John McDonnell
Ice on the river,
Broken in sections,
Sparkling in sunshine,
Steadily moving,
Silently melting.

Stand by the river.
Make a reflection.

Fallen soft petals,
Floating on green pond,
Languidly swirling,
Clinging to paddles,
Gradually sinking.

Stand by the green pond.
Make a reflection.

Childhood and loving,
Melting and sinking,
Needing reflection.
Stand by their flowing.
Sing of their beauty.


Jesus Felt (1983)

1989 music by John McDonnell
Taking on our flesh,
Jesus felt our pains,
Taught the ways of God,
Healed where there was faith.
God was pleased with Him.

Bleeding from each pore,
Jesus felt our sins,
Took them on Himself,
Offering unto God
Perfect sacrifice.

Rising from the dead,
Jesus felt our joys.
We shall live again,
Never more to die.
Jesus loves us all.


Pacific (1983)

1989 music by John McDonnell
You careless island dwellers,
For twenty days unbroken
Across unstable surging
Without an eye to see us
Our engine churned the water.
We found your island barely
Protruding through the ocean.

Your peaceful eyelids greet us
As if we ought to sigh now.
We like your smiling faces,
The laughter of your children.
How old's your oldest tree here?
We found your island barely
Protruding through the ocean.

Near half a globe of water
Is pulled by lunar motions,
Is blown near unimpeded.
Although we buy your produce,
Our tastes are continental.
We found your island barely
Protruding through the ocean.

Song Suite No. 3

Garden Song (1996)

In this garden butterflies
Hopping blossoms that here grow
In the fragrance rhapsodize
And to colors joy bestow,
Glowing colors moving hearts,
Where love's dormant something starts,
Moving colors glowing bright
Bringing smiles that make things right.

In this garden bumblebees
Buzzing blossoms that here bend
Give by taking, moments seize,
Joy like this must never end,
Glowing moments moving hearts,
Where love's dormant something starts,
Moving moments glowing bright
Bringing smiles that make things right.

1996 tune by John McDonnell

2016 bagpipe arrangement by John McDonnell

Ocean Song (1996)

We built our boat beside the ocean
In the heat of summer day.
The sea blew in, stirred our devotion
For our plans to sail away.

The time for launching came past sunset
When the scented land blew out.
The breeze across the rocks and runlet
Touched our hearts and stirred up doubt.

Why sail away from meadow sweetness,
Float upon Earth's bitter tears?
On land we find at times completeness.
Souls adrift at sea have fears.

That all our work would not be wasted,
Though we hesitated some,
We launched our boat, the sea spray tasted,
And to this far land have come.

So now we dance beside the ocean
That our plans and fears have crossed.
Someday we'll sail back with emotion,
If in storms we are not lost.

1996 tune by John McDonnell

2016 bagpipe arrangement by John McDonnell

Marching Song (1997)

To play a good song
While marching along,
The sound of the pipes on Mount Zion.
With gladness of heart
To play a good part,
The sound of the pipes on Mount Zion.
God's glory shall stun
And darken the sun
Approaching the Holy One.
The drumsticks now whirl,
The bagpipes now skirl,
The sound of the pipes on Mount Zion.

1997 tune by John McDonnell

2016 bagpipe arrangement by John McDonnell

Empty House (1983)

The moving van has left with all they own
Except their car, their luggage, and themselves.
Inside the house, inspecting closets, shelves,
The widowed mother bites an urge to groan
To voice aloud the emptiness inside.
Her search finds only crayon marks on doors.
Departing footsteps squeak on naked floors.
Then shuts the way she entered as a bride.
The emptiness has voices now, the snap
Of window glass when breezes shift, the scratch
Of branches on the roof, a rattling latch,
A whistling at a drapeless window gap.
She joins her children waiting in the car
And hopes their sadness won't be carried far.

Waterfall (1984)

Their wade up to a waterfall today
Was not to calculate its rate of flow.
The aftermath their feet did simply know.
In sunlit mood beyond their voice to say
They went to witness power and feel its spray.
When near the roar they saw prismatic glow
As over mossy stones they pressed each toe
While clasping hands to hold each other's sway.
They entered soothing mists that beaded skin
Extending arms to touch the crash within.
How much meandered to unmeasured fall?
As much as bubbled after. That was all.
Their wade today was very much a part
Of calculations love has made an art.

To William A. Albrecht (1986)

You learned of health by centrifuging clay
For testing plants, from plots on Sanborn Field,
From rabbits' growth, from grazing cows assay
Of what the soil permits the plants to yield.
You saw within the soil or absent there
Some reasons for our health or lack thereof.
You wrote because you felt impelled to share
In words that would reveal the truth in love.
Your papers now collected are a source
For teaching how to grow nutritious plants.
As eco-agriculture charts its course
Instructed by your calmly reasoned hints,
It knows the fruit of your life's work could be
Ascending health for all humanity.

William A. Albrecht (1888-1974)

In September of 1978, I was lying on the floor in our bedroom feeding our one-year-old infant a bottle
of milk. While doing so, I was asking God whether or not it would be wise to send a letter I had written,
intended for the editor of Saints Herald, criticizing certain statements in an article in the September
issue of that magazine. While I was thus praying, both the infant and myself fell asleep. Within my
sleep I sensed a spiritual being approaching, who drew close above us, and though I could not see him,
I sensed that he was looking down fondly upon this domestic scene. My spiritual self extended an arm
upward toward the being, who clasped my spiritual hand with his. When I awoke I interpreted this
experience as indicating to me that it was not against God's will that I send the letter, which I did that
very day. It was published in the October 1978 issue of Saints Herald. Part of it read:

"Through numerous experiments William A. Albrecht of the University of Missouri proved that plant
nutrition is directly related to soil fertility. Other experiments proved that animal health is more
related to the soils that feed plants are grown in than to the pedigree of the plants. He concluded that
unhealthy soils produce unhealthy plants, animals, and people. He designated the central United States
as having historically the healthiest soil. (This was proved by the millions of bison it once supported
with short grass, and by the high protein wheat and healthy herds of cattle in more recent times.)"

This experience was so real to me that years later I was still thinking about it and wondering who the
visiting spirit was. My best guess is that it was the spirit of William A. Albrecht, who had died a few
years previous to the experience. In 1986, I composed the sonnet "To William A. Albrecht," which was
published in the December 1987 issue of Acres, U.S.A., the publisher of The Albrecht Papers. In the
October 1987 issue of Acres, U.S.A., within a letter by me, was this statement:

"The most unforgettable revelation in my own life came in 1978, while I was reading The Albrecht
. An article in the Saints Herald poking fun at 'organic' agriculture prompted me to write a
response. Concerned about the wisdom of sending the letter, I offered a heartfelt prayer. My wife
handed me our baby and a bottle and asked that I feed him. After the baby and I had fallen asleep, I felt
a spiritual being enter the room. The love radiating from this unseen visitor prompted me to extend an
arm to the spirit. A hand held mine and I was shown a vision that I cannot recapture. But it was
impressed upon me that there is a crying need for ecological agriculture."

Winterbourne (1992)

The leafless twigs in morning sunlight swung
Soft blurs across the dazzling crystals snowed.
Stacked flakes that high in evergreens still hung
Cascaded as each limb shook off its load.
Some skating shovelers clear the ice of drifts
For families huddling round an oil drum fire.
Small kids are held for lacing Christmas gifts,
Then wobble off toward thrills their hearts desire.
Will afternoon bring out the boisterous bands
Who muscle hockey pucks through sticks and spars?
Will evening whirl with couples holding hands,
Some looking up together at the stars?
One leaps into a spin one must not botch,
Because a certain person's there, to watch.

Blue-tailed Skink (1992)

The speckled cast of oak leaf filtered sun
Limns grounded rocks and lichened barks with sheen.
These otherwise would seem the drabbest dun,
Relieved by any undergrowth that's green.
Across dead leaves a darting lizard form,
That's smooth and dark with lengthwise yellow stripes
And tail of purest blue, attracts one's gaze.
Just when one thought that dullness was the norm
Here scampers this, quite unlike stereotypes,
To stir one's weary thoughts to those of praise.
One's wish the sight with someone else were shared
Extends until one's soul is frankly scared
By shocking clacks on rocks from bounding deer
One feels ashamed one did not know were near.

Aerial Photograph (1993)

I saw a photograph, an airplane view,
Of woods that blessed us with burrs while hiking through.
The stream you teetered across on fallen tree
Flows where it's marked for drainage pipes to be.
The giant oak I climbed with throbbing heart
Is xed for chain saw gangs to rip apart.
For now, those woods still hang with tangled vines,
Still drop their autumn leaves, still hold their buds,
Through bare-branched winter months, to split and swell.
For now, in springtime's bright translucence, shines,
Or, piercing summer's arching denseness, floods,
A tranquil light. Is there some way to tell
The planners that their vision from above
Has taken leave of senses that we love?

Sap (1998)

In early spring amidst the barrenness
Of hardwood trees before new leaves spread
One seeks and finds a grapevine dripping sap.
The blackened bark from which it bleeds I guess
To be half one's height above one's head.
From there clear drops fall across the gap
To splatter ground foliage. What forces bring
Up moisture from the soil to treetop vines
Upheld by past years' tendril twists that cling?
Perhaps these grapevine leaks are flashing signs
For curious minds who notice things like this,
Who, though they may not read, would be remiss
To leave unmentioned curious sights they've seen
And fail to even guess what they might mean.

This poem was inspired by The Book of Mormon.

I Am the Land America (1976)

I am the land America. I am a holy land.
I am the New Jerusalem where Jesus Christ shall stand.
When He was born, a star appeared my sky had never owned,
And when they nailed Him to a cross, my face broke up and groaned.
When He arose, my dead in Him awakened from their graves.
He taught my living, healed their sick, and calmed my winds and waves.
He sent His Spirit from above to comfort and to guide
Those who remembered His commands. In them He did abide.
But after two bright centuries His gospel they denied.
No more their Savior gladly served, but cursed His name and died.
Engraved in gold, their prophets' words, now crying from my dust,
"Repent! Believe His gospel true! Don't fall from grace like us,"
Must to my living be proclaimed, or they must likewise fall.
The nations dandled on my knees must show Christ's love for all.
I am the land America. I am a holy land.
I am the New Jerusalem where Jesus Christ shall stand.

Baby Blessing (1982)

tune: St. Edmund by Arthur S. Sullivan (1842-1900)
Fresh from thy presence, Lord, this child we see
Reflecting image of Thy majesty,
And yet how helpless clings,
What joy to parents brings.
In sighs of thankfulness rings this mystery.

Before they people, Lord, we now see blessed
By elders of Thy church this special guest
From those bright realms above
Where all things bask in love.
On earth may this child know of all that is best.

Quetzalcoatl (1983)

He came from Heaven
To teach the people.
The winds obeyed Him,
Was called Messiah,
Was thought inhuman.

He would not listen
To tales of bloodshed,
Nor look at lusting.
With hands He covered
His ears and vision.

He melted anger
And softened glances
With love beyond them.
He left them happy
Beyond their measure.

For My Wife's Ordination (1984)

This daughter like descending dove
Is ordained to represent
Abiding Spirit from above
Lighting on all who repent
With its vibrant ministry
Calming with authority.

May her mere presence bring to all
Visions of a peaceful life
While her well-chosen words enthrall
All whose careless words make strife
That all hearts might soar on wings
In the Spirit that she brings.

This poem was inspired by a passage in The First Book of Nephi in The Book of Mormon.

Nephi's Vision (1984)

At journey's end the tree of life stands lovely more than all we know.
The whiteness of the fruit it bears exceeds in brightness sunlit snow.
The taste thereof has sweeter tang than honey and the honeycomb.
The joy therefrom surpasses throbs sojourners feel in finding home.
Joy must be shared or is not joy. There is a search through swimming eyes
To find and call familiar souls to come and taste of paradise.
Though many doubt or even jeer to try to prompt a sense of shame,
The tree is there, its fruit is free, the path to it has precious name.
A virgin fairer than the fair became the mother of our God.
In children and in childlike hearts the love of Him is shed abroad.
At journey's end the tree of life stands lovely more than all we know.
The whiteness of the fruit it bears exceeds in brightness sunlit snow.

This song was inspired by a passage in The Third Book of Nephi in The Book of Mormon.

Behold the Children (1987)

2016 bagpipe arrangement by John McDonnell
Christ shall gently lead
Those who are with young,
Touching every need
With a love that's sung,
Behold the children in God's love.

Boys and girls become
Men and women soon.
Mellow voices hum
In a joyful tune,
Behold the children in God's love.

Parents ever grieve
If their children stray,
And when children leave
Quavering voices say,
Behold the children in God's love.

At the end of years
There before God's throne
Truths revealed through tears
Angel songs intone,
Behold the children in God's love.

This hymn was inspired by Isaiah 6:8.

Isaiah's Vision (1989)

tune: Livorno by Arthur S. Sullivan (1842-1900)
Those who serve God by helping those He made
Sense His great love and on His strength rely.
Their souls have heard the urgency conveyed,
"Whom shall I send?" Each answers, "Here am I."

Those who serve God rejoice to be so blessed.
Pleasing their Maker fills their hearts with glee.
Their souls have heard the great concern expressed,
"Who'll go for Us?" Each answers, "Lord, send me."

These Nostradamus-like quatrains are based on dreams experienced in 1971. If those dreams
were prophetic, they may indicate that Isaiah 5:24-30 will have a fulfillment in California,
where its government has "cast away the law of the Lord of hosts and despised the word of the
Holy One of Israel." Those now fleeing California because of its wicked government may escape
earthquakes followed by foreign invasion.

Three Dreams (1994)

The final U.S. navy ship that leaves
Japan is cursed by gathered crowds who raise
Clenched fists and sputter epithets. This grieves
The numbered ones recounting zero days.

Their aegis sabotaged, Pacific ships
Are taken captive with their crews, whose fears
And futile raging soar. No radar blips
Spread hope that any rescue party nears.

Along an earthquake coast a siren whines.
Attacking jet aircraft armadas bear
Magenta, yellow, orange, and red designs.
The U.S. jets sent west have not a prayer.

This Nostradamus-like quatrain is based on dreams indicating that America's interstate highway
system will at some point become a dangerous environment for travelers. "Doniphan" refers to a
church-sponsored conference and retreat center that was once called "Camp Doniphan," where
many of those attending annual church reunions lived in tents for a week.

Doniphan (1997)

When family souls must shun the freeway drift,
Their back road travels rest on Christian grounds.
And here by lakes new buildings shall uplift.
To call by former names trips laughing sounds.

This poem was inspired by a passage in The Book of Helaman in The Book of Mormon.

Aminadab (1997)

In daytime an overshadowing cloud
Made darkness so deep that we all felt fear.
Then as if from above the cloud came a voice
That though from above seemed closer than near.
Each time the sound spoke the prison walls shook.
Aminadab's voice then called us to look.

We turned and we saw two faces aglow
As Nephi and Lehi with angels conversed.
Aminadab told us to cry to the voice.
We cried till the cloud of darkness dispersed.
Then pillars of fire encircled each soul
And burned in our hearts until we felt whole.

The Spirit of God had entered our hearts
And gave us power to speak marvelous words.
Then again from above was whispered a voice.
The joy in our hearts was soaring like birds.
We looked up to see from whence came the sound.
The heavens were open and angels came down.

The angels we watched then bade us go forth
And marvel no more nor doubt what was sent.
We spread out to tell of the loving voice,
And Lamanites everywhere began to repent,
To lay down their war gear, to worship the Lord,
And give back the lands that were taken by sword.

sherlockian poems and songs by John McDonnell