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Poems and a Story

to Encourage and Overcome

"Those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles."

Isaiah 40: 31

 

Poems written by Steven Du Pre in Northern California (originally from Colorado)

Dedicated to those with neuro-immune diseases, central nervous system disorders, such as Multiple Sclerosis, Mitochondrial Myopathy, Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, Myasthenia gravis, Inflammatory myopathies.

 


Contents (in order of appearance):

wind in the aspen trees

To this disease

The Breaking

One Day in Time

We will not be denied

Mockingbird, Our Premier Party Animal

Watching the Plum Tree in Winter

Top to Bottom

Kokanee Salmon

Hummingbird Dancing in the Dawn

Tableau: In-Line Skaters Delivering Fliers Door-to-Door

Ode to Strawberries

Concert of Laughter

Psalm of Thanksgiving for my Prayer Family

Psalm to God Who Brings Light into Darkness

Ready?

Haiku Poems

The Cracked Pot: A Story from India (author unknown)

 


 

wind in the aspen trees
(late summer, Colorado Rockies)


ever listen to the rustling edge
of a sudden rainstorm
through aspen trees,

how they turn and bend
as the wind strums
a bracing new song of grace?
 


To This Disease


You came with the force of the crushing breakers,
casting me down into the hard wet shore.
No choice but to let the surging tide
slowly fade away like the ebbing fiber of my body.


I find I can no longer run
but stagger up to the dry sand;
the dunes in the distance may be the way home,
but I can only lift this damaged frame,
like a wounded soldier
and look for cover.


then, to begin to grasp
these long days of isolation
will stretch on
and I need to turn my mind
to these precious gifts of creation---
watching Western Sandpipers and Snowy Plovers
search for the day's
catch in the gleaming, receding waves.


No, I can't bring myself to embrace
this withering grip of weakness and pain,

but I'm starting to discern
a well-lighted path over the dunes,
a call to pray with more passion
and insight for other strugglers,
to explore the wonder of passing cloud formations,
the sheer joy of White Pelicans
in synchronized flight over beckoning ocean waves

 


The Breaking

leaving my wife's room in the hospital,
out under the full moon to the car--
and there, on the passenger seat
one solitary plumbago petal
separated from the flowers I had brought---

carries my mind away to brighter times together
hiking by blue polemoniums on high
mountain slopes under the spacious sky---

yet the fallen petal---
this breaking of the body
only deepens our lovebond,
makes a way for the endless
healing kindness of our God
to bend down bearing Bread

 




One Day In Time

We are in a marathon,
our eyes on this faltering journey
but today I am turning
to listen to riversong,
to revel in the splendor
of mountain fields of wildflowers:
Lupine, Bird's Eye Gilia, Hot Rock Dudleya.

with this disease, I have to stop
and consider each step,
not like the pack of runners swiftly
passing by at a pace that permits
only a sidelong glance at the landscape,
but no time to look deep
into the intricate heart of the bloom--


opening pearl-white satin Globe Lily blossom,
following the maroon path that guides
the bee bearing pollen
into the mysterious birthplace of seeds---


yes, to go slowly enough to see the delicate
hand of God in creation


just now a whirling stream of irridescent blue
Hairstreak Butterflies
go surfing over waves of purple Lupine---

I'm sorry. I got caught up in this fullness of life.
I know, the race is on,
but the richness of God and the simple things
will do that to you sometimes---
to see the joy in my wife's eyes at the unfolding spring,
the mountain slope blooming and afternoon sun lighting
the river as it plays a delightful sonata---
all these make the soul satisfied.


No, I guess I'm not sorry after all.
I'm going to keep on veering off the trail,
turn my gaze fully into these hidden vistas.
I hear the prize is not just
for those who cross the line first.

 




We will not be denied

(Sacramento River Valley, January)


three straight days boxed in by valley fog,
but on my stroll by slumbering oak and liquidambar;
high over the sky-reaching branches,
a small band of crows,
like the dark vanguard of hope,
winging their way home,
cutting the grip
of this gray, somber morning with their strident
yet somehow festive clamor of calls


they will not be denied their steady advance
toward the sun
that is yet unseen in the distance



 

Mockingbird, Our Premier Party Animal

how Mockingbird loves to party!
a rich virtuoso serenade
that cascades through moonlit nights---
a waterfall of celebration songs
from high perches in the landscape

a repertoire drawn
from blue jay, mourning dove, meadowlark;
to each migrating flock,
Mockingbird proclaims:
"Play me your tune and I'll sing it till dawn."

my neighbors complain about this all-night show,
but I stand outside and applaud as they bob and bow,
set free a stream of musical watercolor,
then sail on from high wire stage to stage---
a trail of songs illumines a new and joyful way --

you see, I like to imagine Mockingbird painting
the night sky to lift up those with disabling
disease--yes, I can see and hear it. can you?---
even with one broken wing
the soul can catch wind currents, can soar and sing



 

Watching the Plum Tree in Winter

 

stark as branches of winter trees,
the losses from this disease
have stripped so much from me.
You can even scan the passing
clouds through my barren limbs.

One thing I have learned though,
sitting in this solitary place,
here watching the flowering plum tree in winter

I see dancing bands of Goldfinches and Oregon Juncos
come flying in for their banquet
of wine-red plum tree buds.

The plum tree seems to be gaining strength
as it patiently waits through stormy days,
long stretches of fog covering,
quiet nights communing only with stars—

yes, I believe that plum tree is on the move
just as sure as the food from its flower buds
quicken the flight of migrating birds

winter can strip the branch,
bend it with fierce winds,

yet, buds break forth,
there is sweet birth in the secret place
and wings beat with the light springing
from these tree buds.

------let us rejoice in this new life
relentlessly breaking forth!
God’s light at the heart
of the flower bud made visible
and wings of this invincible
dance of love expanding and gathering force

 

 

 


 

 

Top to Bottom

foraging headfirst down the oak,
hooks on claws
catch any crack in the bark

exploring secret caverns,
savoring acorn
and leaf beetle cuisine

 


 

Kokanee Salmon

(Kokanee–“red fish” (Okanagan); Tahoe–“big water, lake of the sky” (Washoe)

for years Kokanee salmon search
the wide waters of Lake of the sky
until that autumn day
when the call comes to that sacred place of birth--

with steady purpose, they move against the current,
hurtling forward over rocks
and snags to gravel beds in Taylor Creek,
where they awoke in the flowing Sierra snowmelt

silvery blue Kokanee
turn blood-red on their death and life journey
to bury the harvest of luminous eggs—

are we searching with clear
vision the waters of our years,
listening for the call of our Maker?

there is rebirth,
in this blood-red passage,
a crossing from death
to this radiant, life-giving path

 


Hummingbird Dancing in the Dawn
(Black-chinned Hummingbird and Anna's Hummingbird in Northern California)

flash of Brazilian samba
dancing through red Salvia--
whirling Carnaval
wings in constant percussion,
iridescent feather dance
at fifty wingbeats per second
flowing down the avenue of blossoming Hibiscus

reaching deep into the bloom
body stretched to the limit
singing praise for the sweet gift,
then turning into the beat of the music---
snare drum wings
leave a trail
of swaying blossoms

dancing emerald jewel
perfectly fitted to the Fuchsia pendant,
flowers bending downward---
yet with loose body samba

laps luminous nectar,
stirs pollen grain rhythms
into joyous dawnseed jubilee





Tableau: In-Line Skaters Delivering Fliers Door-to-Door

 

like a like a gust of wind streaming
through a field of wheat,
two teenage boys on in-line skates
bursting down opposite sides of the street

a storm looms in the winter sky
as they skim up concrete driveways,
toss the “home-sale” fliers onto porches,
then whip away into the breeze

their faces are flush with body heat,
eyes bright as they twist and glide
on their sweep through the neighborhood
just ahead of the galloping, onrushing clouds

 



 

Concert of Laughter

 

step with me under the forest canopy,
soon this garrulous band
with their raucous banter
shake the tops of oak tree
as they gather the bounty of acorns,
hammer the harvest into their granary,
pounce on intruding jay---
see them dressed like whiteface clowns,
listen to their festive
worksongs and mealtime chatter
this team of jesters
and their lapping waves of laughter.
this drumbeat echoing through timeless wildwood---
it is good, yes, it is very good
 



 


 

Ode to Strawberries

(in memory of Pablo Neruda and his Odas Elementales;
"Heartberry" in Algonquian language where words
for "heart" & "strawberry" co-mingle---
thus, of great significance for these Native peoples)

advance runners stretch out an expansive canopy
like a tent over a big-time entertainer,
and there---hidden away from the glare
as behind a stage curtain
are the ones known for their bravura,
their skill at closing a meal with a grand gesture


these are the red luminous stars of summer,
the allegro movement in a symphony of fruit,
heart-berries springing up, tinging buffalo feet scarlet,
waterfalls bursting off cliffs like a torrent

so bracing that you want
to dance a sensuous tango,
play a sonorous violin,
lift your voice in song
to the waves of joy
splashing down your throat

Oh, to eat these berries
until their intoxicating wine
runs over your lips,
stains all your clothes

yes, let their bright waves of flavor
sweep over you,
lost in the sweet flood of celebration with friends---
how the taste of fresh strawberries,
the rippling streams of laughter
free us to embrace this crimson dawn

 


Psalm of Thanksgiving for my Prayer Family
(Based on Psalm 133)


How good and refreshing it is
for brothers and sisters to flow forward in unity!
It is like precious water released
from rainclouds and underground springs,
coming down the high Sierra,
coming down in surging waterfalls,
down in the restoring rivercurrents.
It is like the dew at dawn
shining in low branches of pine trees.

For with God, the fresh waters are a new birth,
the wellspring of harmony with our Father forever.

 


 

 

Psalm to God Who brings light into darkness

(Timisoara, Romania--December 15, 1989 --"Here began the revolution that felled a dictator."
Plaque on Hungarian Reformed Church)

burned villages, people assigned to cold apartment blocks,
reign of an oppressive dictator---
protesters disappearing into the darkness

one pastor refuses to bow down,
a passion for Christ overcoming the gray dawn,
voices of celebrations singing above Ceausescu's iron hand

when the secret police come to take Pastor Laszlo Tokes,
believers from all churches, one in Christ, do not yield,
hundreds of candles, a shield of light in the night

Praise the God Who stands alongside those who stand against evildoers


(Gulag, Soviet Union prison camp--dissident poet, Irina Ratushinskaya--"Pencil Letters")

Irina heard her teachers say repeatedly,
"God does not exist," and she reasoned,
they must be trying to hide someone very powerful.

Understood the good news of God reading Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky;
when imprisoned for anti-Soviet education--writing poetry,
yet she carved her poems on bars of soap until memorized

words of hope surmounting years of hard labor on the Gulag,
her soul, grounded in Christ Who shared her suffering,
borne up by the bright prayer path of worldwide believers

Praise be to God Whose hand moves through the prayers of His people

(Calcutta, India---Mother Teresa started opening homes for the dying destitute in 1952)

called by God to the poorest, dying in the streets,
holding each one in her arms as precious jewels,
Saint of the Gutter in the flow of Jesus' living waters

mornings begun in communion with her Lord,
then sharing that Bread of Life with hungry souls,
the darkness of their sorrows relieved by hands of love

her prayer: "Stay with us, and then we shall begin
to shine as You shine."---her call to us: "Yesterday is gone.
tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin."

Praise be to Jesus Who bends down to care for the abandoned

(Kampala, Uganda--Jackson Senyonga, prayer warrior---abandoned by parents, received by God)

decades of terror and devastation
under the rule of Idi Amin and Milton Obote,
no families left untouched by maniacal murder

but a remnant of believers call out to God in desperation,
gathered in secret places---jungles, caves and swamps
continually asking God to come back to their nation

secret prayers birthing a land that seeks wisdom;
God's hand quelling the specter of Ugandan AIDS epidemic,
a dry wilderness transformed by shining waterfalls of devotion and worship

Praise be to the Holy Spirit Who can turn nations back to the one, true God


Ready?

a lone Dipper deftly navigates
over rocks in stampeding rapids,
feet hooked into the tempo of this place

the piping song and bobbing dance,
the headfirst dive underwater to walk upstream,
seeking mayflies along the river bottom

the cadence of this joyful one
carries us along into the heartbeat
of surging whitewater

is there a new song, a riverdance,
ready to be unveiled in your soul?
a spring welling up to be given with open hands?

 


 


 

HAIKU POEMS

 

A haiku is a short 3-line poem originating from Japan which seeks to record the essence of a moment keenly perceived, oftentimes in which Nature is linked to human nature.

 

Haiku for my Mother
October, 2001 in Colorado

(my mother, Margaret, has late-stage Alzheimer's)
as we enter her room
her eyes
focus on love


falling cottonwood leaves--
running stream
Mom clutching tight to my coat


leaves strewn across the water
by the autumn wind
carried away by river current



Mom's sure foundation
in the Maker
of these mountains and streams



one touch
of Jesus
brings Light and Peace


Football Haiku
(these haiku come from the experience of playing American football)

Victory


close game, clock ticks down
winning coach,
son rocks with joy in his arms

Wide Receiver

soaring high above defender
outstretched hands
nets the spiraling football

Halfback

slashes off-tackle
body stays low
fakes left, then long gone

Defensive End

pushes past blockers
breaks through last defender---
clear path to the quarterback

Last-Minute Field Goal

kicker's two quick steps---
silence before crowd erupts,
ball splits the uprights

 



Other Haiku

 



overhead,
hundreds of snow geese—-
my mind wings home



in the heavens,
the never-ending light---
how can we not know?



breeze courses
through willow branches;
she loosens her blouse



squirrel searching
each branch for acorns---
the cat’s eyes

 


The Cracked Pot: A Story from India

 

A water bearer in India had two large pots, each hung on each end of a pole, which he carried across his neck. One of the pots had a crack in it, and while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water, at the end of the long walk from the stream to the master's house, the cracked pot arrived only half full.

For a full two years this went on daily, with the bearer delivering only one & a half pots full of water in his master's house. Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, perfect to the end for which it was made. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection & miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do.

After two years of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, it spoke to the water bearer one day by the stream. "I am ashamed of myself, and I want to apologize to you."

"Why?" asked the bearer. "What are you ashamed of?"

"I have been able, for these past two years, to deliver only half my load because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your master's house. Because of my flaws, you have to do all of this work, and you don't get full value from your efforts," the pot said.

The water bearer felt sorry for the old cracked pot, and in his compassion he said, "As we return to the master's house, I want you to notice the beautiful flowers along the path."

Indeed, as they went up the hill, the old cracked pot took notice of the sun warming the beautiful wild flowers on the side of the path, and this cheered it some. But at the end of the trail, it still felt bad because it had leaked out half its load, and so again it apologized to the bearer for its failure.

The bearer said to the pot, "Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of your path, but not on the other pot's side? That's because I have always known about your flaw, and I took advantage of it.

"I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back from the stream, you've watered them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate my master's table. Without you being just the way you are, he would not have this beauty to grace his house."

Moral: God can take what we see as weaknesses and turn them to strengths for His glory.

 


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