If you care for me: Luci Shaw

Starling-floxIf you care for me
speak to me without words
in a spiral of starlings
thrown into a bank of wind, scarves
of an invisible dancer
making the sky a stage

Make a negligent gesture like
the drop of a chestnut at my feet
the glossy nucula bounding out of its spiky casing
rolling to me, a gift round
and brown as a chocolate cream

Caress me with a curtain of dew
on my moonlit skylight, or boulders
shining under their clear skin
of rain. In the rock garden
a crimson cosmos articulates
its bright, small world. Speak
to my eyes in syllables of light
and colour, if you care for me

Remind me about space as
I watch the finches
peck at the wind in the balsams. The doe
cleaves the air current over
the ribbon of creek. The great
blue heron elbows its way up
through gaps wild with branches
and you are opening
for me, too, a new passage
between the trees

By the way you breathe dead leaves
into a small whirlwind of fire
show me, if you care for me, how you can
lift me from the dust,
light me like tinder

[Luci Shaw]


At the Church of the Saviour, Washington, D.C. Summer, 1983: Luci Shaw


Leaving outside all heat, and the confusion
of self-consciousness, as my own heart’s latch
lifts, I enter the door to God’s house. The inside
air, cool, blossoms with the scent of multiple
flower heads, and the color.

I find a seat in the circle of others.
As our glances meet, Christ looks out from
the brown eyes and the blue. His presence presses
lightly on us all, each, the unseen hand
moving in blessing from head to head.

Against the wall candles cluster – a benediction of
brown, cream, cinnamon, white – their flames
in the breath-currents moving toward each other
like tongues of fire, like fingers.
In a back row a child makes a soft sound.

A cross unites the space, its arms embracing our
diversity, its shaft both pointing up and reaching
down. As the Word comes incarnate, spoken, broken
once again, love rises in a silent incense, in a unison
of silver sound, from four-score hearts and throats.

Luci Shaw

Trauma center: Luci Shaw

Trauma center

It was never meant
to burst from the body
so fiercely, to pour
unchanneled from
the five wounds
and the unbandaged brow,
drowning the dark wood,
staining the stones
and the dust below,
clotting in the air
dark with God’s absence.

It was created for
a closed system –
the unbroken rhythms
of human blood
binding the body
of God, circulating
hot, brilliant,
saline, without
between heart, lungs,
and all cells.

But because he
was once emptied,
I am each day refilled;
my spirit-arteries
pulse with the vital red
of love; poured out,
it is his life that now
pumps through
my own heart’s core.
He bled, and died, and I
have been transfused.

Luci Shaw

Bethany Chapel: Luci Shaw

Bethany Chapel

Bracketed between the first
tentative prayers, a silence fills
this place, a shadowed listening
as our separateness seeks out
the Spirit’s focus for this hour
and gathers strength enough
to peer and soar
into small, shining arcs of praise
held at their lower ends
by the old hymns. Christ
in this crowd of rest and rising
humbles himself again to our
humanity; and like the sheep
(trembling in the shearer’s hands)
surrenders to us once more
in quietness.

As at his dark birth and death
we had his body in our fingers,
now, again, we split the whiteness
of his loaf by turns, and tasting
his imaged life against
the cup’s cool rim
we take him in.
Nourished by that final flesh,
that ultimate blood behind
the chosen signs, our God-thoughts,
seeds of worship, multiply to words.
Light flows down to us, and back,
joins us in one body of fire –
one polyphon of light now
sounding out himself –
one flame of singing
burning into being.

Luci Shaw

A Song for Simplicity: Luci Shaw

Stained Glass windows by Marc Chagall at Fraumünster, Zurich.

A Song for Simplicity

There are some things that should be as they are:
plain, unadorned, common, and all-complete;
things not in a clutter, not in a clump,
unmuddled and unmeddled with,
the straight, the smooth, the salt, the sour, the sweet.
For all that’s timeless, untutored, untailored, and untooled,
for innocence unschooled,
for unplowed prairie, primal snow and sod,
water unmuddied, wind unruled,
for these, thank God.

With both hands unjewelled and with unbound hair
beauty herself stands unselfconscious where
she is enough to have, and worth the always holding.
The mind perceiving her, the heart enfolding
echoes the unchanged pattern from above
that praises God for loveliness, and love.

Glory again to God for word and phrase
whose magic, matching the mind’s computed leap,
lands on the lip of truth
(plain as a stone well’s mouth, and just as deep),
and for the drum, the bell, the flute, the harp, the bird,
for music, Praise! that speaks without a word.

As for the rightness to be found
in the unembellished square, and the plain round,
in geometric statement of a curve,
respond without reserve
but with astonishment that there’s for every women,
every man,
one point in time, one plainly drafted plan.
And in your unique place
give glory for God’s grace.

All this from Him whose three-in-one
so simply brought to birth
from the red earth
a son.
All our complexity, diversity, decor,
facet the gem, encrust the clarity.
So pierce we now the opalescent glaze
till all our praise
rises to Him in whom we find no flaw.

Luci Shaw

The Foolishness of God: Luci Shaw

The foolishness of God
1 Cor 1:20-25

Perform impossibilities
or perish. Thrust out now
the unseasonal ripe figs
among your leaves. Expect
the mountain to be moved.
Hate parents, friends, and all
materiality. Love every enemy.
Forgive more times than seventy-
seven. Camel-like, squeeze by
into the kingdom through
the needle’s eye. All fear quell.
Hack off your hand, or else,
unbloodied, go to hell.

Thus the divine unreason.
Despairing now, you cry
with earthy logic – How?
And I, your God, reply:
Leap from your weedy shallows.
Dive into the moving water.
Eyeless, learn to see
truly. Find in my folly your
true sanity. Then Spirit-driven,
run on my narrow way, sure
as a child. Probe, hold
my unhealed hand, and
bloody, enter heaven.

Luci Shaw