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Invitation to Poetry: The Gifts (and Challenges) of Winter

Welcome to the Abbey’s 54th Poetry Party (it has been long overdue)!

I select an image and suggest a theme/title and invite you to respond with your own poem. Scroll down and add it in the comments section below. Feel free to take your poem in any direction and then post the image and invitation on your blog (if you have one), Facebook, or Twitter, and encourage others to come join the party! (permission is granted to reprint the image if a link is provided back to this post)

On Sunday, January 15, I will draw a name at random from the participants and the winner will receive a free registration spot in my upcoming online art retreat for the season of Lent – Soul of a Pilgrim (February 22-April 7, 2012).



I adore winter trees.  Something about their bare beauty, revealing their essence against a pale sky, makes my soul sing.  They remind me that winter calls us to shed what is not necessary and turn inward, seeking the gifts of silence and stillness.  A winter landscape demands that we slow down to receive its invitation.  There is no rushing through this season.

I have a fascination with bones for the same reason.  Something about this return to our own essence offers up a powerful invitation to me.  In Paris I have gone to see the catacombs, a sacred burial site underground of the bones from millions of bodies that were deposited there.  Being in their presence elicited a deep sense of awe and wonder at the lives that once animated these skeletons, the brilliant minds contained in those skulls, the passionate hearts once beating within those bodies.  And knowing that one day I will also be rendered into the essence of dust and bone.  It can be a painful knowing, but one that brings me to a sense of cherishing life, of savoring its beauty.

I invite you to write a poem this week about the gifts (and challenges) of winter.  What does this season call forth from you?  Where do you seek greater restoration and the nourishment that only darkness can bring?  What are the challenges you experience as you wait for the light to return?

If you are one of my beloved southern hemisphere readers, feel free to image the far-off winter season, or share with us what you are discovering about summer’s gifts this year.

*Please note: Some folks are having trouble with the comment feature – I am looking into the issue, but if you are unable to leave your poem please email it to me at and I will make sure it is included.*

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76 Responses

  1. November

    Leaves reign down
    Leaving long limbs
    Exposed like raw pain.

    The Lord gives and the Lord takes away.
    Blessed be the name of the Lord?

    Blessed be.
    Blessed be
    Because pain weathers well.

    As leaves to earth,
    We return to the genes of our souls,
    Bare, not barren,
    To become at last
    Who we always were.

  2. White Light of a January Morning

    Snow today and I am not eager
    to drive to work down Sandy Boulevard
    because cars park in the middle of the road here,
    even with a mere two inches of powder,

    so I delay and watch from my upstairs window
    while fat flakes rain down on the bright light
    of 52 year old Donna and five year old Jackson
    sledding on the white sidewalk

    this pallid day, another northwest winter,
    sky, as always, a pewter gray, but today
    children unfurl through red front doors,
    full of oatmeal and enthusiasm

    with more than a hint of ecstasy
    stuffing their Michelin-man snowsuits
    while parents gather on the corner,
    a veiled vigil to snowball levity.

    Nobody is going anywhere today,
    except to ski in the cemetery,
    wave hello to the dead,
    and etch angels in grass-speckled snow.

    Outside my window, between SUVs
    and a few enduring maple trees,
    three days past Epiphany,
    tiny white Christmas lights still blink hope;

    overflowing, feet-stomping, snow-shaking, door-slamming
    hope; Donna shouting ‘woohoo’ with neighbor boys –
    a tribe of the uncensored; hope
    leaves white footprints in their abandoned wake.

  3. Oh the way the snow speaks
    whispered breaths like
    feathered spokes of a flake.
    Watch it spin, its unclear path,
    riding the air like a song,
    ecstatic like the dervish
    in spirit and in splendor.

    When I was young, I would dream
    of riding on the snow,
    of hijacking a flake for the
    of its short life,
    of climbing in between the spokes and
    in between the feathers
    to hear the mystery of its essence.
    What has it, if not a heartbeat?

    I would start my ride
    at the mother cloud, waiting for her to
    and catch her flake-babe
    on its way into life,
    of its glory from the very first,
    feel the wind propel the tines,
    see what the life of a snowflake
    beginning to end,
    and lose myself in

    I never did it, of course,
    not even in my night dreams,
    for I
    the cold

    There’s a sparseness in my soul,
    I’m sure,
    and could I stand the death,
    maybe window-pane thrashing,
    the loss of flakeness in the whole
    of white,
    or the end among the mud
    after intimate witness
    of its life?

    I sit at the kitchen window,
    face warmly tucked into my palm,
    steam of coffee rising like incense,
    watching dervishes spin to
    the asphalt,
    and I wonder.
    I wonder if
    risking winter
    would be worth it
    to hear the snow’s life speak.

  4. Rain pelts the windows
    Covering. Coating
    Branches drape the ground
    Trees fallen
    Wind whips–
    Whistles around the house
    Icicles spear the snow banks
    Lights flicker. Off. On.
    Cowering in the darkness.
    Shivering in the silence.

    Remind me of your power