We two have seen the lights of foreign ports —
Strange constellations to our wondering eyes —
And gazed on glittering golden royal courts,
Bright mirrors of the sun beneath the skies.

And in the warmth of homes in frozen lands
By glowing hearth fires we have broken bread,
And in the northern sky we’ve seen the dance
That living flames in strange wild measures tread.

But giving sweeter pleasure than them all
A comforter (see there!) runs on ahead,
This night to meet us with a welcome call —
That light we see is burning in our hall.


That light we see is burning in my hall.
How far that little candle throws his beams!

~The Merchant of Venice, Act V. Scene i.



Authentic thoughts on my hometown 

Smoke covers your city
The sun is red as blood,
Dry of human pity —
Your love with an asterisk isn’t love.

Pity’s a gentle rain,
Not a drop is seen,

You fight the fires of pain
With bloodshed, like gasoline.


(White bearded fools,
And flint hearted mothers,
Bequeathed you evil rules,
And closed your hearts to others.)


Like lions who crouch for their prey,
The strong lie in wait for the weak,
And you walking by every day
Don’t speak for the ones who can’t speak.

World citizens who won’t
Pity your most helpless neighbour,
You think your “progressive” vote
Gives you a waiver?

No more peaceful’s the lion at night
Than the lion who kills in the day;
You cry “Peace!” when the blood’s out of sight,
And the violence is hidden away.


Wisdom is with your crowd
Whatever it says is true —
“Love wins” shouted long and loud
Means whatever the crowd wants to do.

But love will forever win,
And so hell opens its beak,
As you as a crowd march in,
And the earth is received by the meek.

Pink Calico

For Anne Gertrude Sneller, who told this Civil War era story of her Aunt Elvie (much more concisely), in her book 1964 book, ‘A Vanished World.’

How she afforded it no one could think!
Fold upon fold of calico pink!

A beautiful bolt, not grey, black, or brown
But coral pink calico, bought in the town.

In the days of the war cotton put on fine airs,
And hand-me-down dresses were all we could wear,

But one day our mother came back to the farm
With rosy pink calico under her arm.

‘Elvie and Sarah need dresses’ she said
And before us the calico fabric she spread.

And Elvie and I had never seen such
Glorious pink, it was almost too much!

And I saw in her eyes Elvie’s heart rise to heaven,
With the wonder-filled joy of a girl just turned seven,

As with love overflowing she stood gazing upon
The calico fabric as pink as the dawn.

‘Now, girls’ said our mother ‘it’s time supper was laid’
Then safe from the sun till the dresses should be made,

She put up the cloth in the closet to stay,
But we thought on it all of the rest of the day.

Carrying candles together we went up to bed
But eyes closed or open Elvie saw in her head

That glorious fabric brought home from the store,
And she felt that she had to just see it once more.

In the parlour our mother and father were sitting,
Father read by the fire, mother worked at her knitting;

Not a sound could be heard but the needles’ soft click
And the turn of the page and the clock’s steady tick,

When all of a sudden a scream tore the air,
Then scream after scream — father leapt from his chair

And mother in haste cast her work on the floor,
And they ran to the cries — to the closed closet door!

Throwing open the door they found Elvie inside,
Clutching her candle as in terror she cried,

For before her was lying, with flames rising higher,
The sunrise pink calico blazing on fire.

Father beat out the fire, mother took in her arm
The terrified girl, and she came to no harm,

Still she cried from her fright and for the calico too,
For the folded pink fabric was burnt through and through.

Then mother said ‘Hush,  you are safe, do not sorrow,
And I’ll look at the calico fabric tomorrow.’
But how she could manage it we could not think!
Work with those cinders of calico pink?

But she worked all next day and well into the night,
Piecing together the calico bright,

Cutting and measuring, matching the grain —
And on the table by morning two dresses were lain — 

And Elvie and I had never seen such
Beautiful dresses, it was almost too much!

Beauty for ashes was no fairy story,
For there it was lying in pink calico glory!

For Richer for Poorer

For Richer for Poorer

I long to deck you with a diamond cloak
And see your smile shine in a golden ring,

As bright as sunlight when the dawn first woke,
And gleamed on every diamond dew-dropped thing.
I want to crown you with a diadem
Of silver lilies, and ruby roses shining;
With lapis hyacinth on emerald stem,
All through your dark brown forest tresses twining.
But now I’m strapped for cash, yet you are fair — 
Your clever fingers ringless, and your crown
A single rose set in your chestnut hair,
Which o’er your shoulders as a cloak falls down.
          Still, for your care shall all my strength be pressed;
          Now as my earnest, in my verse be dressed.


For Better for Worse

For Better for Worse

When I was young, I plotted out a course,
And all alone my mooring lines let slip;

I turned my helm, for better or for worse,
The way I chose, and sailed my buoyant ship
To seek through tossing seas the golden land.
And any ruin that I might steer upon,
By ruthless rocks or shallow flats of sand,
Would be my loss alone; and ventures won
Were solely mine in glory and in gain.
But now we two are bound, God grant me grace
Never to bring you drowning down in pain,
But help you look with me up to the place
    Where Jesus is, who hears our desperate calls,
    And helps us lift the other if one falls. 


Here is a link to my other sonnet based on the wedding vows.

The Goatherd & The Wild Goats

No cloak, no fleece upon that day sufficed;
The penetrating wind through every coat
Blew rain straight to the skin, as cold as ice.
It fiercely flogged a goatherd and his goats
Exposed upon the open mountain side.
But, oh! their joy to see a deep, dark gash
Cleft in the rock— “Come on!” the goatherd cried
“It’s snug and dry — I’ll feed you oats and mash
In comfort while it rains.” The soaking goats
Pursued their master through the cloven stone,
And huddled, dripping, eager for the oats,
But soon they sensed that they were not alone.
A herd of wild goats had come before
To shelter in the cave from that same rain,
And when the goatherd saw these many more
He made a different plan about his grain.
With hopes his flock to double on that day
He called to them “Fresh Oats! All you can eat!”
But for his faithful flock a stalk of hay
As sustenance for each he reckoned meet.
Yet when the sheets of rain had ceased to fall,
The stranger goats all scampered  from the cave;
“You false ingrates!” the outraged goatherd called
Is this your thanks for all the food I gave?”
“Why should we join your flock?” the goats then bleated,
“We’ve seen quite clearly how we would be treated.”

Picture of a Dusty Mountain Road

To step into that picture-tile
On gramangrampa’s fire-place
And walk along a dusty mile
(Upon the path my hand would trace,
When I was young and of it’s height,)
And see what lay beyond that bend
Which turned away, out of my sight,
And not to find a final end,
In summer day without a night,
Of Spanish-Californian light,
This was my dream of deep delight.