The Lock







The Lock

Every evening I brush one damp curl from my baby’s forehead
And in its place leave a long, mama kiss

My sweet strawberry of a boy is heavy now–
All cheeks, tummy, and leg rolls
To me, though, he is still tiny

A little lump laying under white sheets and grey cotton blanket


His fingers rise up to his displaced curl
Thumb and forefinger searching for that precious peach lock

And then they twirl
Root to end…
Root to end…

A ritual performed since babehood, sucking at my breast


I watch, waiting for the next step in our little dance

Then it’s his turn to wait
For me to shake my head and whisper
‘Daddy is at church.’

He knows the routine by heart


My strawberry boy is still small enough that our family nights
Spent reciting our theme–

         Do all the Good you can
         In all the Ways you can
         To all the People you can

–Words meant to soothe the hearts of our children in the absence of their father–
Are a jumble of nonsense to him
Who needs a theme when you can have a daddy?

He sighs, debating whether to go on


The choreography is rote and he dutifully moves forward

The next step is mine
I’m supposed to say something about Jesus
But I stumble

I am tired–and hurt


Jesus listened and wept with the woman
Jesus comforted and healed the outcast

Telling my boy that his daddy has gone to church to help Jesus feels like a half truth
When the church his daddy serves builds idols on top of the pain
Of the lost sheep Jesus sought

‘I don’t know.’


It is all I have to give
A worthless, heartbroken utterance

But my strawberry boy nods
Perhaps grateful for an honest change in our routine
And turns to lay on his side, finger still twirling his favorite lock

Root to end…


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Guest Post: To Hearken

By Tessa

Porcelain Doll jurcut

“Now don’t talk too much,”
he preaches from that unreachable pulpit,
dark suit and tie.

After all,
why would I need to say anything?
My needs are only so-called–
not valid, not important, not even real.
I have no real concerns.
Or, at least
the perfect porcelain doll who wears my face,
smiling with silent Stepford grace
from her polished marble pedestal
She embraces her
highest and holiest calling,
does not shrink back from
nine months of body swollen, stolen, possessed,
does not seek to leave the gilded walls of home
where women are incredible yet cannot preside.
The milky thoughts spoon-fed her each week are sufficient.
She does not ache to understand
the heavens and earths
and nations and peoples
and pasts and futures,
does not yearn to stretch, to grow,
to feed that seed of divinity planted in me by Mother above;
a mother I barely know;
a mother she does not remember.

But she is not me
I have climbed down from that pedestal,
have found solid earth beneath my feet.
And though I may have skinned
and scraped my hands on the way down,
the sting rekindles my voice.
First a cry of pain,
then words,
words I do not remember forgetting from suppressing them so long,
but now the dam is burst, I cannot hold back the flood
though it brands me Heretic.
So I speak now with my foremothers–
Emma, Eliza, Mary, Martha, Deborah, Miriam, Eve, and
Standing in a circle we declare our truth,
noble, bold, and independent of the expectations of a suit.

“Shhh. Shhh.”
he whispers, returning me to my proper place,
that display case pedestal.
“You’re happy.”

And in that moment I almost believe him,
almost don’t feel the duct tape being pressed firmly, but oh so gently across
my lips.

After all,
to hearken never required a voice.


Tessa lives in Utah Valley with her husband and whiny but cuddly cat.  She reads more than is probably good for her, knits her way through church, and teaches middle school.

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Heavenly Mother’s Day: I Dreamed I Wrote Five Poems

Screen Shot 2015-05-11 at 11.36.02 PM

When Martin Pulido and Caroline Kline announced the A Mother Here Art and Poetry Contest, I wished that I was an artist or a poet. I wanted to add my heart stirrings to the collective swell. Instead I sent the call for entries as close and as far as I could, inviting some of the best and dearest creatives I knew to contribute. In response, one mentioned that she looked forward to my poem. Her assumption that I too would be making an offering gave me pause, and then it gave me the courage to try.

The first stanza came while I walked to a friend’s house. I tapped it into my phone’s note function, and typed it up when I returned home. I thought that I was finished. I had my single poem–my single try to say how much Heavenly Mother meant to me. But that night I had one of those rare dreams you remember upon waking. I had written five Heavenly Mother poems, and I was reading them over a pulpit.

I couldn’t remember the words, but wrote four more stanzas in morning’s light.

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Poetry Sundays: Descending Theology: The Crucifixion

Art by William BouguereauIt is increasingly difficult for me to separate the miracle of Christ’s birth from the sorrow of His death. Maybe age does that to us as we move from the first half to the second half of life. Maybe it’s something about Mary. No doubt, on its deepest level, the message of the atonement offers joy–ultimate, celebratory joy. I believe we will all be freed from the effects of sin and sorrow in the eternities. Yet, in a mortal world of violence and heartbreak, that joy often seems far off.

Some of us struggle to believe in a God who would allow the unspeakable cruelty that exists in this world. I imagine everyone who ever lived will at some point find herself wondering how to hold on to faith when a child is lost to disease, a friend is killed in an act of senseless violence, or even when a good soul is taken home at the end of a long life.

I chose today’s poem because Mary Karr is not shy about telling the truth. She speaks our fear that perhaps, “some less than loving watcher watches us.” She is not afraid to visit the darkest places each of us will visit some day, or to say Christ was not a only God, but also a man when he hung there. I chose this poem because, for me, one of the greatest gifts Christ gave us was the comfort of His last words on the cross: His testimony that a kind and nurturing parent waits to receive us home.


Descending Theology: The Crucifixion

To be crucified is first to lie down on a shaved tree, and then to have oafs stretch you out on a crossbar as if for flight, then thick spikes fix you into place.

Once the cross pops up and the pole stob sinks vertically in an earth hole, perhaps at an awkward list, what then can you blame for hurt but your own self's burden?

You're not the figurehead on a ship. You're not flying anywhere, and no one's coming to hug you. You hang like that, a sack of flesh with the hard trinity of nails holding you into place.

Thus hung, your ribcage struggles up to breathe until you suffocate. If God permits this, one wonders if some less than loving watcher

watches us. The man on the cross under massed thunderheads feels his soul leak away, then surge. Some wind         sucks him into the light stream

in the rent sky, and he's snatched back, held close.

An earlier version of this poem may be read here.  Mary Karr’s “Sinners Welcome” the volume from which the poem was selected can be found here.



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Poetry Sundays: Who The Meek Are Not



Mary Karr, Sinners Welcome

Who The Meek Are Not

By Mary Karr

          Not the bristle-bearded Igors bent
under burlap sacks, not peasants knee-deep
          in the rice-paddy muck,
nor the serfs whose quarter-moon sickles
          make the wheat fall in waves
they don’t get to eat. My friend the Franciscan
          nun says we misread 
that word meek in the Bible verse that blesses them. 
          To understand the meek 
(she says) picture a great stallion at full gallop
          in a meadow, who—
at his master’s voice—seizes up to a stunned
          but instant halt. 
So with the strain of holding that great power
          in check, the muscles 
along the arched neck keep eddying,
          and only the velvet ears
prick forward, awaiting the next order. 



Among my favorite religious poems, Who the Meek Are Not, has stayed with me since I first read it. It is one a few jewels I pull from a treasure box of inspirational writing when I become confused or wonder if my particular variety of discipleship is worthy of God’s grace.

I understand this version of meekness, the ears pricked forward, the sudden awareness of a call, the subsequent redirection of energy. Meekness can be a quiet yet powerful force running through our veins. Mary Karr and her Franciscan nun gave me permission to be a strong, courageous, vocal woman who is a humble servant of Christ. My agency–the power to choose, and to have an effect on the world–is only as useful as my willingness to surrender that power to God, to seek his will. I pray for strength and meekness every day.

How do you feel about meekness? What does this poem say to you? 

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