Wind Work

To be is too much work.

I crave the wild and wistful wind;

Some days my edginess creeps

in so far — there’s nothing

for it but to go out and let

the wind do its work:

soul building

grace restoring

dust clearing.

The stronger the wind, the longer

I linger. I lean on its breath.

Then, when the world again is

still and the creatures return

to industry, I feel myself moving

through and through the trees;

around and down the river,

into open meadow green and

I am as free and wild again

as the zephyrous wind.



Afraid of life, she listens to

them tell her how different

she is; she takes it to heart

at first. Watch her try, try

try to be like them but

no matter how hard she tries,

she is not like them.

Somewhere along the equation

she realizes that different than

is not less than;

it is equal to. Sometimes (maybe

mostly) different than, plus

different than equals a sum

far greater.

The Enclosure of the Heart

Like a sprouting seed, love climbs

the enclosure of the heart

that has at last allowed

the light of grace to reach it,

tendrils — fragile and leggy —

pull it up and out

of its dark place,

deep in the dank ragged

edges of loneliness

until it flowers, spilling

all its fragrance and color

on any one who will stop and listen.

Up From the River Smiling

A friend once told me she met

her future husband just after

a turbulent river tossed

her out of her small kayak.

My friend, being who she is, showed

up from beneath the icy water

laughing — her bright smile stretched

across her triumphant face.

The man, knowing his own need,

asked, “who is this woman

that came up from dangerous

water smiling?”

He asked to meet her on dry ground.

They loved well and married,

carried out to the sea of life

by that river-smiling moment.

I wonder how I, being who I am,

could meet another who is able

to come up from the river smiling.

I’m familiar with icy water, dangerous

and turbulent; I watch it carefully,

hopeful to someday see the one

who comes up from the river

with a smile on his face.

The Color of Your Heart

(Written for my art students at Howard Street Charter School, 2012)

The color of your heart is deep and wide–

It gathers all around me

And fills my days with laughter rich

And teaches me to be

More colorful myself, spilling all

My deepest hues

(Those I tend to hide inside)

Instead of showing them, like you.

Together we can paint the world to

Create a masterpiece

Of love and harmony and then

Our world can be at peace.

Some of Us Crawl

“It is legitimate to crawl after the wings are broken.” William Stafford


To have wings is to have hope.

So much like a bird,

hope soars overhead, urging

us all (those of us broken and hopeless)

to look up; look out of ourselves.

But it seems too easy to look in

and see the ragged absence of wings.


Though some of us do crawl.


I crawl, dragging myself forward.

The shadow in my path, gone first,

then returning.

I look up–

There is a surge of joy in me!

To see hope like this is to see the future.


Tobogganing When I Was a Boy

East of Salem there is a small community called Pratum. This is where I grew up. About 1/2 mile East of Pratum there is a river called the Pudding River.

One Winter day it snowed a lot–12 inches–and it was cold, as the snow did not melt.

A group of boys, including my older brother (6 years older than I), had a toboggan which would hold about 5 fellows. We got it out and started going down a nice hill toward the Pudding River. There was an old rail fence made out of wood at the bottom of the hill, next to the river.

When we went down the hill we would stop approximately 100 or 150 feet short of the rail fence. “Oh, what fun!” We were having a great time when the older boys came and took the toboggan. When they got tired of it, we were back at it again.

That evening they got buckets of water and put it on the hill. The temperature was cold, so the water turned to ice.

Well, the next morning was Saturday, so no school. Us little guts got up early and beat the older boys to the toboggan. We were having lots of fun and would stop before the rail fence. The older boys came and took the toboggan away from us. We thought that was so mean. They got on the toboggan and went down the hill just zooming. When they got to the bottom of the hill, they couldn’t stop. They went right through the rail fence and onto the ice on the river. The ice was not thick enough to hold all the weight and they broke through the ice. All the boys went in the river. The water was only about three feet there, but they all got sopping wet.

Well, do you know what? Us little guys were able to toboggan the rest of the day. The older guys had had it. This happened about 1940. “Oh, what fun!”

–John Wenger