Mercy was your favorite word

-elizabeth-ann-seton-age 18      Elizabeth Bayley Seton , age 20, about 1794

She only lived to age 47, but during that short life she raised 5 children, was a wife, mother, widow, educator, convert to Catholicism, and founder of my religious community.

She was a great letter writer; in fact , she wrote marginal notes in her Bible and in most of the books she read.

EAS handwriting

I wrote this poem about her in 1974:

Mother Seton’s Bible


Mercy was your favorite word.

How many times

underlined in psalm and margin

by your wondering hand.

Mercy -on your eye


the sea, and thanks.

Mercy – vows

in an underground chapel-

let us not forget

our communion

of tomorrow.


thinking sea voyages,

passages to heaven,


how children breathe

their first





<a href=””>Mercy</a&gt;

Far away honk some geese in their flight

burning_tree sharon Lynn Wallace

Burning Tree     by Sharon Lynn Wallace


Here are the lyrics to one of my favorite songs.  Unfortunately, the group who composed it and performed it are not anywhere to be found anymore, even on YouTube!  But I do have the lyrics:

The Burning Tree


Group:   Different Shoes     Album Title: One Size Feets All


Summer has gone

And the days growing cold

Far away honk some geese in their flight.

Here down below

We start thinking of snow

And the quiet of long winter nights.

And even though times will get harder

And the darkness can make you feel old

There’s a good harvest stored in the larder

And the tree’s now arrayed here in red orange and gold.



And I run through the leaves

In the cool Autumn breeze

Feeling warmed by the fire in me.

Though it’s said they don’t talk

I still learned a lot

In the light of the burning tree.



So many times

When I’m driving, I’m blind

Thinking something that I’ve got to be

First in the line and my teeth start to grind

Like the cobblestones down by the sea

But yesterday morning at sunrise

Where the highway dips down to the sea,

The quiet of dawn was reflected

In the leaves of a tree

That was beckoning to me.


( refrain)


Here on the ground

I heard a voice with no sound

Saying this is the reason to be:

To make your own place

In the whole human race

And to find it will set your heart free

So even though times will get harder

And the darkness will make you feel old

There’s a good harvest stored in the larder

And the music you hear in the trees is your soul.


Burning Tree   by Thomas Burke



<a href=””>Honk</a&gt;

Riff on chapped knuckles


Here’s a poem that appears in my book  Pick It Up and Read :

Riff on Chapped Knuckles


Oily skin , subjected to decades decanters of witch hazel

finally turned to parchment.

Suddenly after oceans of dishwater,

brillo pads erasing charred sugar,

wake up to papery palms,

chapped knuckles.


Rougher than brass,

worse tasting than sandwich,

truculent, they buckle

under hopeless lotion.

No more succulent knocks,

no more oily snickers,

no more soft blinkers,

only shredded dead skin

to suckle.




<a href=””>Riff</a&gt;

Spiderweb of black cracks

black cracks-abstract-backgrounds-textures-patterns


Here’s a poem I wrote about five years ago.  It appears in my book  Reconnaissance:

An Active and Personal Devil

It has been reported by the New York Times…that as technology increases, more and more people are coming to believe in an active and personal devil. – Miller Williams


The door was wood, with peeling paint

and a china doorknob

white,cracked, spider web of

black cracks, but not chapped.

The door was closed,

but not too hard to open.

The devil sat behind the door,

hunched over a table, hiding.

She was thin and young.

I asked her why and she looked at me

and did not answer.

I left her, but left the door ajar.

I felt in my shoulders

two red tomatoes, like organs of the body,

red balls, and furry.

They tell me to watch out,

that I’m letting my heart go.

Soon I see a small white closet

with a black tile floor.

In back of it waits a

thin cherry door, a hoard of

copper pipes.

I see the door leads to another country,

Backed up by a stone

In a deep summer forest.

Laminate, I think, no,






<a href=””>Black</a&gt;

<a href=””>Black</a&gt;

Ginger Root

porch cabin

Here is a wonderful poem by Monique-Adelle Callahan:


I have made nothing of myself.
I have gone on this long, spilling
water into half-full cisterns,
proceeding with caution along a road
somewhere where blue rivers
and white streams run along through a damp
echoing forest and the smell of wood
burns out from a cast-iron stove
and into the night like a giant sigh of breath,
as it does from my grandmother’s cabin
where she sits and looks out
the window with the cobalt blue glasses
lining the sill, and her hair is white fire
ablaze on her head.
Everyone is content here.
No one needs my water. I want to go back
and collect it, to fill at least one cistern
and carry it back to her, triumphantly,
with a bold stagger into the living
room, the weight of my living water
sloshing and jumping from the spicy tremor
of my body’s steadying itself. I want
to bring her something I have done.
No, I want to bring her someone
I have loved. Time is winding up, I see it
in her hair and in her knuckles
that look like the path I’ve taken
through this life, that look like ginger
root, dried up and knotted like the way
my heart has been those times
when I needed it most.

Monique-Adelle Callahan is an assistant professor of English at Emmanuel College. Her poems have been published or are scheduled to appear in OVS Magazine, TORCH, The Healing Muse, Touch: the Journal of Healing and Stone Highway Review. She has received writing fellowships from Callaloo and Cave Canem.

<a href=””>Gingerly</a&gt;


Dancing All Alone


Here’s a poem by the American poet Theodore Roethke:

The Dance

I tried to fling my shadow at the moon,
The while my blood leaped with a wordless song.
Though dancing needs a master, I had none
To teach my toes to listen to my tongue.
But what I learned there, dancing all alone,
Was not the joyless motion of a stone.



<a href=””>Dancing</a&gt;

faintly littered with bits and strokes of light

hole in the floor 6

Here’s another favorite poem , by Richard Wilbur:



A Hole in the Floor   by Richard Wilbur

for Rene Magritte


The carpenter’s made a hole

In the parlor floor, and I’m standing

Staring down into it now

At four o’clock in the evening,

As Schliemann stood when his shovel

Knocked on the crowns of Troy.


A clean-cut sawdust sparkles

On the grey, shaggy laths,

And here is a cluster of shavings

From the time when the floor was laid.

They are silvery-gold, the color

Of Hesperian apple-parings.


Kneeling, I look in under

Where the joists go into hiding.

A pure street, faintly littered

With bits and strokes of light,

Enters the long darkness

Where its parallels will meet.


The radiator-pipe

Rises in middle distance

Like a shuttered kiosk, standing

Where the only news is night.

Here’s it’s not painted green,

As it is in the visible world.


For God’s sake, what am I after?

Some treasure, or tiny garden?

Or that untrodden place,

The house’s very soul,

Where time has stored our footbeats

And the long skein of our voices?


Not these, but the buried strangeness

Which nourishes the known:

That spring from which the floor-lamp

Drinks now a wilder bloom,

Inflaming the damask love-seat

And the whole dangerous room.




<a href=””>Faint</a&gt;