To Texas

The miles roll away beneath us:
    Andrew Peterson sings of hope,
        we yearn for lives of story;
    and Piper preaches words of joy
        and challenge to a sleeping church;
    my hand rests light on Jaimie's thigh,
        this beauty God has entrusted me;
And the miles roll away behind.

Joseph Holds the Son of God

Please listen to the original composition from which the text is conceptually derived. The two pieces are closely related and complementary, though each can be appreciated on its own. For notes on the composition of both music and poetry, see the end notes.

Twilight, in a bright little house
        in the town of Nazareth.
A craftsman rocks an infant child;
        he feels the gaze of the stars.
Words fail him as the twinkling eyes
        of his son catch heavenlight.
No phrase conveys his sentiment:
        Joseph holds his infant son.

Sixteen weeks since the miracle happened,
        the boy is restless, colicky and noisy,
so Joseph rocks him as his mother sleeps—
        only Heaven knows how much she needs to rest.
She rarely speaks of what God's messenger
        had told her over sixty weeks ago,
but solemnity is ever mingled
        with her joy, responsibility and hope.

Sixteen weeks, and already so much change,
        little fingers stretching,
the torso filling out with baby fat,
        and chubby cheeks for smiles.
Every passing day he is hungrier,
        less sleepy, more alert,
inquisitive and eager to explore
        his slowly growing world.

Nothing had prepared him for this terrifying joy—
His workman's hands (and mind) tremble in expectation
Of coming years when they would shape not only a house
But a man, a man who might fulfill his nation's hope.

Nothing had prepared him for this mix of happy fear—
His skill is in creating good, simple furnishings,
Not training a leader, a prophecied savior king,
But Adonai has spoken and Joseph will obey.

Nothing had prepared him for this marvelous weight—
To look down in happiness his heart could not contain
At his son, the child his beautiful wife had born him,
This child he'd had no part in siring, who came from God.

Nothing had prepared him for this striking, horrified delight—
The wondrous reality of a human child, his to raise,
With all the possibilities that entailed, and nightmares too,
Yet Adonai was faithful and true—God's will be done, he prays.

Sunrise, in a dark little house
        in the town of Nazareth.
A craftsman rocks an infant child;
        he feels the heat of sunrise.
Words fail him as the waking gaze
        of his son shines clear and pure.
Delighted, humbled, awed, amazed,
        Joseph holds the son of God.

The notes that follow are not necessary to understand either poem or music—they are presented simply for those interested in the creative process behind composition and poetry of this sort.

I sat down to write the piece of music that inspired this poem eleven days ago. When I began, I wasn't sure where I was going with the piece—I only knew it was a very different direction from last year's piece... within a few hours, I had the opening piano section worked out, and as I got up to go eat dinner, I finally understood what I was writing—Joseph holds the son of God: image, phrase, and feeling all in one.

(Understanding of meaning often follows musical conception when I am composing: I create an idea, and the meaning follows the music. It's something the opposite of the act of creating poetry, where meaning is necessary for the creative act to begin. But more on that below.)

Over the intervening days, I slowly shaped the music to convey that idea. Joseph holds the Son of God—what was he thinking and feeling, some cool evening under a Nazareth sky, the miracle itself both behind him and nestled in his arms? Fatherhood is, by all accounts, a stunning enough feeling all its own. Add that the child in your arms is God's promised Messiah, with all the national and religious hopes tied up in that—he is your responsibility to raise... how would you feel? I don't know the answer to that question, but I hope the piece conveys a little of the sweetness and the awe and the mystery that faced Joseph a little over two millennia ago.

When I finished the music, I realized I wanted to write an accompanying poem—the poem printed above. The structure of the poem is derived from the structure of the composition. The music opens, transitions into new material which it then repeats slightly altered, introduces the main theme (a development from the previous material) and builds on it thrice over, and then concludes with a modified restatement of the opening. This much is reflected at obvious levels in the poem.

Slightly subtler is the structure of the stanzas: each quatrain is composed of lines whose syllabic count is the same as the number of measures in the corresponding section of the music. In some sense, then, the poem is deeply derivative of the piece of music. On the other hand, the poem stands well on its own: While the derived structure gives it ties to the music, the same structure frees it to have a unique, original feel of repetition and variation.


yes, there was a star
and yes, the angels loud proclaimed to sheep and shepherds
and yes, a troop, a tribe of travelers, astrologers would come
and yes, the kingdom promised would someday soon arrive
        (if not in garb that any recognized)

a universe upheld / a suckling baby held
the king of heaven come down / the child of Mary lay down
an ancient prophecy to be fulfilled / a virgin's womb with child fulfilled

but first there was surprise and yes, confusion
first there were questions of chastity (on her part)
first there were questions of folly for keeping her (on his)
first there was incomprehending awe
first there was the trial of a pregnancy
first there was the challenge of a newborn

The Sound of (...)

Disoriented, I paused at the door
Struck in the face by the startling sound
Of silence
    (in Oklahoma, where wind's furious wailing never ceases)
And the bite of solidified evaporated reservoirs
    (in Oklahoma, where all the lakes are imaginary, or at least invented)
in Decembrish air that for once was still
    (for once in its life, I would say, but air is not a person, just a thing)
    (and I'd have said "breeze" by default, but it was still for once in its life)
and the sound of silence was like an inverted slap to the ears:
instead of ringing in the head, I heard the stars whisper


The voice of God has stripped the forests bare
Quietly, but all at once
Whirls of brown-orange across a suddenly pastel blue sky
A curtain closed by a man hanging on its long rope
As the year comes swiftly to its end

I drove under a blushing sky,
Oil strokes glazed over with watercolors
The sun drowsing its way under the edge of the earth

Fields of green lie fallow
The golden wheat lies piled in its house
While endless stretches of barren earth prepare to hibernate
        —to wait, with held breath, for the long-in-coming green of spring
        —that verdant maiden, she tarries like the sun before a summer dawn
        —her veil of dreary days and white water-lace donned in preparation

Creaking, groaning arms strain under the weight of a pale sky
And hope for rebirth

And so do I

poems: the art of
saying something meaningful
with not many words


Fire burned the sky
First orange, then pink, then
The dull red of faintly glowing coals
Fish-scales layered over horse-tails
And paint strokes lashed in flaming spirals 'tween the two
I have never seen anything like it

Hip-Hop Groove (change)

The world is a tilt-a-whirl
And it makes us dizzy, every one
We stand and stare as round it twirls
This merry-go-round is never done

The dance of the heavens, yes the dance of the stars
Is the dance of my eyes and my heart
When the seasons come spinning by, yes change comes rushing through
Then I know I'll soon be trading the familiar for the new
(And sometimes loving it
And sometimes overcome)

The ceaseless pace of change comes ever pulsing on:
The basso beat of a hip-hop groove in a car with its windows down
Cruising round through the town until it's vibrating in the ground
I grind my teeth at the sound, knowing that the future can't be found
It's already here, just waiting to be unbound

The past is not lost, just gone,
        and the future's flight has been delayed
And with all that's lost, how do we carry on
        in the churning slipstream of so many todays

In tumult and in thunder
Silver lights the rims
        (of the dark)
        (of the rolling wheels)
        (of blue skies)
        (of destinations reached)
And the drawn-down darkling brows of the heavens
And the gone-round sparkling weights of the driven

Today was not worse than yesterday (no:
        better in almost every way,
        even the ways that were worse)
And tomorrow will not be worse than now (no:
        better in almost every sound
        even the sound of slowly-breaking curse)

Untitled Poem of Frustration

Futility is
Walking in circles
You get exercise
But you still end up
Back where you began

Adam's Stars

we are earth-deep granite, marbled through with fire

He lies awake under dark skies
Bright pinpricks staring at him
Needles in his mind, accusing, judging, glaring
His conscience burns
(He owns a conscience now)
Hard ground
The unaccustomed scratching of garments
And the impossibility, the utter inconceivability of sleep
When the weight of guilt bears down like the heavens
The heavens that stare at him still,
Like the angel whose angry sword blocks the way back to paradise stared

we are earth-deep mud, shot through with gold

He lies awake under dark skies
Bright pinpricks unnoticed (though staring still)
Aches in his back, bruises, sorrows, fears
His heart still yearns
(He still remembers Home)
Rocky soil
The familiar scratch of leather and wool
And the impossibility, the utter inconceivability of rest
When the world itself bears down like the weight of his sin
The sin that bars him still,
Like the angel whose angry sword still blocks the way to paradise

we are earth-deep death, pierced through with hope

He lies awake under dark skies
Bright pinpricks searing him
Fear in his heart, tearing, clawing, screeching
His restless mind turns
(He knows what fate awaits)
Untilled earth
The relentless scratching of aged and tattered robes
And the impossibility, the utter inconceivability of aught but death
When the weight of his life bears down like the dark
The dark that gnaws at him still
Like the angel whose angry sword still blocks the way to paradise

And as he sleeps—as he sleeps
(Perhaps you do not understand: he SLEEPS;
I'll say it straight, he DIES)
He wonders, flickers hopefully, remembers
The threat of serpent-crushing savior
And closes his eyes

Haiku (and Meditation)

flicker and sound waves
dialogue and explosions
eyes falling closed

(I fell asleep during The Empire Strikes Back—inconceivable.)

twelve days down this month
thirteen more to reach my goal
writing is hard work

(Every art project takes its own particular toll on me. This one, too.)

music moves the soul
but art is more than motion
songs require meaning

(Art and artistry are dear to me, but indefinable, and mysterious. Always mysterious.)

What is life without
But then, what is life with all
And this: life within

(Finding creative ways to express Truth and Good News is hard. Sometimes, beyond me.)

Exhaustion summons
Sleep's necessity beckons
Strange that we need rest

(God made Sabbath for man—and I think man has forgotten why. Sabbath is good.)

Ultimate (frisbee)

A twisting, weaving dance:
        lungs full and limbs churning, hard
As high above it spins:
        a white streak on blue sky
A whirling, floating fall
        a white arc toward green earth
As down below they dash
        hearts high and arms reaching, hard

Yahweh Is Holy

You alone, oh God, are glorious
Your fingers painted the earth, the sky
Yes, everything about you is beyond compare
Yesterday, today, and even tomorrow are in your hands
You do not change; we can rely on you utterly
Your faithfulness is our hope in the storms

Awesome power: in Your whispers
Actual truth: not battered by opinion
And we look to You to save, for Your word is our hope
And we look to You to judge, for Your word is our life
Active salvation: not dependent on man
Amazing love: in your lightnings

He sits enthroned!
His judgments are true!
He rules with a rod of iron!
His wrath is fierce!
He humbles the mighty!
His hand crushes evil!

We are small and precious in His eyes
Who can understand the mind of God?
We are like the sand and yet individuals
Who can grasp the deep vision of God?
We are impotent and filled with divine power
Who can know the heart of God?

Everything that is
Everything that was
Everything that ever shall be
Even I (am sustained by Him)
Even the heavens (were formed by Him)
Even the crickets dancing out their song (will be remade by Him)

He stands resurrected!
His mercy is great!
He comforts the weary!
His love is fierce!
He raises the broken!
His hand sustains the righteous!

Yahweh is Holy!

Inconceivable, incomprehensible works are done in a moment
Incandescent words kindle the universe into being, kindle corpse-hearts to fervor

Sovereign Redeemer who judges rightly, have mercy on Your subjects
                        (we who have rested in Your freely given grace)
Shepherd King who saves mightily, do justice on Your enemies
                        (they who have done evil to Your flock)

Yahweh is Holy!

Humility, flesh assumed
Hostility, death entombed
Humility, cross endured
Hostility, lies perjured

Oh save us from sin, from suffering!
Oh God who lives, who is, who speaks:
Our way is death, our deeds are futile
Open our blind eyes and unmake our evils

Lord (of peasant-vassals with nothing to give)
Lover (of wicked bride with impurity of heart)
Light (of weary hearts that love the darkness)
Lament (of every wicked man whose ruinous plans you foil)

You are good, oh God, and You never fail
Your faithfulness endures from everlasting to everlasting
Your ways are just and true and there is none like You
You are mighty to save, full of steadfast love and kindness


Like cavernous expanses
        (of sky)
Somehow grander on the inside
        (than the out)
Entire vistas spread before the eye
        (of the intellect)
This world that surrounds is small
        (if only by comparison)
Entire symphonies, paintings, poems, architecture
        (contained and bursting every bound)

A billionth the size of a star
        (yet birthing universes)


missed a week
playing Reach
passed my deadline
enjoying playtime
sad to say
no poem yesterday
you'll get a better one soon
next week I'm setting an alarm for noon

Eat Limes

In this world I have too little time
To spend all my days making up rhymes
        So I sit here and tap
        Less poetic than rap
Then go on with my life (and eat limes)



endless, unceasing miles and miles of concrete and asphalt and tar stretch to the edge of sight
little orange lanterns hang above the sick metropolis of grassless, shadowed pavement

run-down houses and washed-out signs, neon flickers and weathered tin roofs,
        bars on the windows
manicured lawns and fresh paint, new cars and housing covenant enforcers,
        (fake) wrought-iron gates
sprawling monuments to consumption, wide walkways and a hundred doors for
        clothes and sunglasses and lingerie and makeup and games and perfume and skateboards

sunrises burn reddish through low-hanging brown clouds of perpetual refuse cast skyward
horizons disappear in the tangled pseudo-grid of power lines
another construction project belches grit and sand and half-digested oil toward


endless, unceasing miles and miles of meadow and forest and brush stretch to the edge of sight
little white lanterns hang above the sweet metropolis of grassy, shadowed plains

quiet brooks and sun-stroked forest, high mountain lakes and treeline
        bare rock covered in snow
tumbling rapids and sweeping plains, lakes like inland seas and humidity
        magnolias blooming early
sprawling monuments to majesty, narrow paths and a hundred sights of
        wildflowers and lightning and caves and swans and redwoods and grasshoppers and stars

sunrises burn reddish through low-hanging white clouds of endless sea cast skyward
horizons disappear in the beautiful semi-rhythmic fall of cleansing rain
another herd of deer dashes along track and stream and dappled forest bed under



streaks of passion
cascade, ignite, enflame
brushfire and smoke, unquenchable
soft rain and cloud, conciliating
temper, soften, allay
lines of wisdom

—the curtain rises slow

Far and upper reaches all aglow with dawn
While lower, nearer bounds are darken'd still
By shadows of the earth and remnants of the night

Slowly sliding moments before sunrise: a picture—
        how already and not yet coexist and commingle (surprisingly)

The world, the age is broken, finished, ended
While still it rushes onward, unnoticing: its time has come—
        its time is all but done.

History gasped: the first acted ended with a birth—
        a birth that ushered in the interlude, continuous, no break between the two
An interlude of death and undeath, two-in-one
On the first act curtain fell, though actors scamper still across the stage
And still the next act tarries, curtain yet unlifted,
And still the audience sits waiting, breath baited, till the curtain's rise on final act—
        (on final act that will not end)
The curtain rises slow

Far and upper reaches all aglow with dawn
While lower, nearer bounds are darken'd still
By shadows of the earth and remnants of the night

Mountain Biking

burning calves and thighs
lungs aching with altitude
heart thumping, pounding

green blur of tall trees
air whistling in helmet cracks
cool breeze stealing sweat

climbing toward sky
eyes fixed firmly on the ground
work for altitude

smooth curves and small jumps
gliding downward in delight

To Anthony and Megan

You crossed a threshold yesterday
    And stepped into a new and brighter world
    Though two before you now are one at heart
    You'll make a home, a life, a family

We stood and cheered and cried with tears of joy
    To see your hearts so full of joy and hope
    And we will stand beside you in the dark
    When sickness pain and sorrow take their toll

You've set a course for shores beyond your sight
    And know not yet what storms may come at you
    Hold fast to hope, hold fast your solemn vows
    And never dare, no never sail alone

Through marriage bliss and fright'ning woes you'll stand
    Oh stand on Rock of Ages till the end


Some are like curtains in a southern home:
        they change with every season, patterns altered by the passing of the days
Some are like walls in an old home:
        solid fixtures that never change (until a remodeling removes them entire)
Some are like revolving doors:
        they stand still as you dance in and out of their embrace time and again
Some are like stained glass windows:
        pictures painted by the light that shines through their many hued outlines
Some are like mildewed carpet:
        they are an unmovable, however unwanted fixture of your life, too costly to change
Some are like foundation walls:
        they are the firm pillars that uphold you in wind and storm and sorrow.

And every one is precious:
        they are the fixtures of these homes that give shape to our existence.


red sun
slowly creeping molten
over horizon’s rolling rim, pouring
light                       through ragged tears in clouds draped                              
like gray blankets            over the world; trees backlit, hills trimmed                                 with
gold—the black and gray monochrome of night flaming into greens, browns, yellows, blues, violets:
day comes sprinting into being, the tempo an accelerando toward dusk’s end and the passion of life


The brook leaps sparkling from the heights
        shining under spring-blue skies
                wisped with high white streaks of cloud
        cavorting through aspen, pine and meadow
                filled with song and the dance of dragonflies
        bearing winter snow from rocky peaks
                thrust starkly white toward the heavens

The river rushes sparkling in its course
        glowing under summer-blue skies
                painted with dark gray puffs of thunder
        turning through forests and earth-brown fields
                tilled and planted with apples and wheat
        carrying rain from the brinks of granite bluffs
                worn to mere jutting rounded prominences

The ocean tumbles sparkling on the shore
        glimmering under autumn-blue skies
                draped in pale sere curtains of rain
        heaving though the great expanse
                made colorful by fish and bird and mystery
        embracing sky-dropped depths from every mount
                carved to rugged muscled shoulders of the earth

a wracked, a shattered world

I gaze upon a wracked, a shattered world
        where ruin rampant runs among the lives
       of men whose burdens, labors, toils wear
       them thin and ragged, hopeless.
                                                           Glances show
       no light above, nor goal below to drive
       them onward with a sense of purpose.
       (and we) do struggle through the cold, dark night
       before the long awaited eschaton.

I gaze upon a rose that drips to match
       the sodden, dreary sky, its petals now
       unfurling red as blood.
                                           The heartbeat of
       a dying world is loud indeed, more full
       of noisome spectacle and gnashing teeth
       than I could dare believe.
                                                “Not made for this!”
       it loudly cries; “A better world was I
       and better could be still,” it mournful wails.

I gaze upon the hope of all, his form
       now battered, bruised and crushed.
                                                               He hangs
       upon a twisted tree and bears the weight
       of all our human scorn.
                                            This death is death
       of death—of burdens, ruin, hopelessness.
       The earth unchained from groaning burdens sings;
       unbrokenness has broken in, has brok-
       en all despair.
                              He waits—
                                                He yearns—
                                                                     He comes!

If all my verses were complete—
      if never another poem dripped from this electronic pen
      if every drop of creativity were exhausted and
            my mind were drained of everything it had to offer
And no one read a word
And no one missed what they had not heard
Would it matter still?

I scribble for millions
I scribble for one
I scribble for three-in-one
What is my poetic destination?

If all my music came undone—
      if never another note flowed on this artificial page
      if every ounce of genius were drained away and
            my heart were wrung dry of all it had to offer
And no one ever heard
And no one missed what they had not learned
Would it matter still?

I echo for millions
I echo for one
I echo for three-in-one
Why this my musical inclination?

If all my life’s deeds faded to an end—
      if never another word poured from these effusive lips
      if every breath had fled my lungs at last and
            my soul were dried of all it had to offer
And no one ever tear’d
And no one missed him they had not neared
Would I matter still?

I live for millions
I live for one
I live for three-in-one
Where is my eternal destination?

Sonnet (modern, with eleven syllables)

When at last the sun has set and night has come
When at last the darkness falls and day is done
We will gladly sigh and go to take our ease
We will gladly find the blissful call of sleep

When at last the stars come out and and show their light
When at last the moon shows round and shimmers nigh
We will gladly say the summer’s come indeed
We will gladly breathe this warmest ev’ning breeze

When at last the atmosphere begins to cool
When at last the air fades purplish from blue
We will gladly sleep content that night is long
We will gladly lay in bed until the dawn

When at last the sun arises from its bed
We will gladly rise up strengthened by our rest

I stand at gated wall, I stand and stare and sadly sigh
At how my soul should leap and soar, if ‘twere not bound by these
Unceasing ever present fears: that men will mock or scorn,
Until at last my dreams are rent and shatter’d through and through.
If days should pass and night should come without my having seen
A glimmer of success, what then would be my life? A pale,
A timid shadow of a thing? Or would it matter still?

There’s gospel hope amid the pain, and life beyond these walls,
Though oft ‘tis hard to see. Should life be spent and body worn
Till light no longer can be seen, and never had my name
Been known, still crowns I’d have to cast before his mighty throne
In spite of walls and mockery, if ev’ry rising of the sun
I did resolve to live for glory, live for joy. And so
I shall, and persevere until my glorious end arrive.