Sunday, January 2, 2022

Unequal Or Equal (poem)

Unequal or Equal
Here's my protest poem -
In memory of Blaine Hebbel. With thanks. Nobody did what you did.
Do you mind if I tip the scales, press a thumb, place a weight on the balance of my side? It will tip my way – Is that ok? Do you mind? Do you mind if I start the race halfway to the prize? Why, we still have the same chance – We start the same. We stand side by side. Ready? You have two laps to go. If I have but one
Do you mind? Do you mind if my house is on this side of the tracks? I really don’t do well with smoke. Do you mind? If things are
“equaled up” – do I have to give you what’s already mine?
Is that
what you say? If you get won’t you take this and that from me and mine? If you get won’t I have to give? Would that
be fair? If we don’t
Do you mind? Oh, and by the way if someone asks about this unequal-equal thing – I never said this. We never spoke. Do you mind? 1/2/2022 North Andover
Blaine Hebbel
in 2018 at the Walnut Street Cafe

Sunday, November 21, 2021

The Power of Poetry - Holy Inspiration - South Church Faith Forum

The Power of Poetry: Holy Inspiration

Today I was invited to speak at South Church Andover’s Faith Forum. 

Faith Forum is a discussion group held before church most Sundays. The discussion topics may focus on readings and stories from the Bible, or books on spiritual and religious themes. Other times people bring topics of social or climate justice to discuss. South Church Andover is an open and affirming, progressive and non-dogmatic Christian church. My wife Debbie and I are members of South Church, and have been for a long time.

This week I was asked to talk about the power of poetry, and how it speaks to the spirit. 

I opened with my poem "Church Hour". This poem was written on a church bulletin while sitting in South Church before the Sunday service started, listening to the choir and organist rehearse, the indistinct background talk of friends greeting one another, the swirl of people gathering in faith. If you ever see me scribbling notes while sitting in church, it's usually because something has inspired me! I shared this poem with Pastor Dana, and then had the privilege and joy of reading it a few months later in front of the church as part of service!

Church Hour (poem) link

Where does great poetry come from?

And why does great poetry often have a spiritual dimension?

Here is something I’ve heard from a number of poets – and I hear this from people who I think are among the best –

In answer to the question, where does a great poem come from?

The poet’s answer: “I have no idea where it comes from. I just write it down.”

That’s the way it often feels for me. It feels like some of my poems come from out in the world somewhere, or from another world, another voice speaking through me as the poet. Sometimes I have this feeling of “being written onto”. A few times for me it has even been an almost overwhelming physical sensation. It is a loss of self – a loss of self and a connection to the transcendent. It is sometimes a feeling of connection to God, which for me is the spirit in the world.

I’m not saying it always feels like this when writing poetry. Sometimes writing poetry is like building a piece of fine furniture – it takes some inspiration, careful craft, the right tools, time to work, and voila, hopefully a beautiful and useful thing. But there are those rare times that, as a poet, I can say I’ve had the feeling of being spoken to, pressed upon by mysterious energy and forces. And all I can do is write it down. (From there, it takes some some work to finish it, as even the most inspired poem is usually not born fully realized!)

This is the kind of poetry where the poet's job is to listen – to be attuned – to be like an antenna picking up a distant signal that suddenly comes through loud and clear. Sometimes so loud and clear that it hurts and must be written down, captured, to make sense of what just happened.

I think this feeling, this occurrence, is the foundation for poetry of the spirit. I thought I would share some of my poems that touch on God and spirituality.  Here are two.

Waiting In The Colonial Churchyard (poem) link

Surprised (poem) link

I also invited my friend and poet Bob Whelan to speak and read a few of his poems, which he did, wonderfully.

Drawing from other poets, I read the poem God's Grandeur (link) by Gerard Manley Hopkins, and talked a little about his life as a poet.

My closing words were this poem: 

Prayer Of The Rivers And The Land (poem) link

Prayer Of The Rivers And The Land (poem)

Prayer Of The Rivers And The Land

Twin rivers of love and justice

flow from the source mountain.

They nourish the parched land.

They bring life to where it had given up hope.

Waters of life they are,

surely as the water we drink.

Twin rivers of love and justice

travel over common ground.

They give shape to the ground between us.

They make the land.

This land is a good place to stand together,

in fair difference and shared purpose.

Twin rivers of love and justice

travel arm in arm, courses entwined.

They entwine in the valley below the source mountain,

as they carry us to the pacific sea.

Twin rivers of love and justice – 

May you bring life to our dry hearts. 

May we be ready to receive your waters,

and not turn away from your courses.

May we be ready to drink deep from your waters of life.

Twin rivers of love and justice

bring us strength and resolve,

carry us in your ease.


January 2016  North Andover, Mass.

Copyright by Mark Bohrer

Surprised (poem)


God is surprised 

by what takes place.

Aren’t you?

The next turn of events,

God knows not.

He wants to find out.

Don’t you?

Otherwise, She might say,

what would be the point?

If there was no choice about it,

God would not want that world –

if it were all pre-ordained, pre-cast.

So instead – 

God is surprised.

It’s so much more fun

to know not

how the dice will finish their roll.

Will good come out on top?

Or will it need another try?

God wants to find out.

Don’t you? 

That’s the reason 

All was started.

God wanted to find out

what this world might be – 

if given the chance.

What we might be – 

if given the choice.

Isn’t it surprising that God – 

All Knowing, All Powerful,

All Omniscient, All Omnipotent – 

Yah, yah, we’ve heard all of that, all of that –

so isn’t it surprising

that what happens next,

God knows not.

Think about it – 

when we say that God 

has infinite knowledge and power – 

it’s like saying that the ocean 

is infinitely wet

just because it holds all the water.


God is still surprised.

Even with all of this all-ness,

God needs to let it play out – 

wants to see what happens.

And hopes someday

to be pleasantly surprised

when good comes out on top.

September 2014 North Andover, Mass.

Copyright by Mark Bohrer

Waiting In The Colonial Churchyard (poem)

Waiting In The Colonial Churchyard

Waiting in the churchyard

For something to save me

Waiting in the churchyard

Stillness comes to me

Here is the quiet steady God of Franklin and Jefferson

Persistent as the field grass

Good unbidden, though not undeserved

Mine to have, yours as well

God in the world

To be gathered like wild wheat

Nature’s honey or free grown grapes

Like the colonist’s self-reliance

I am better saved if I save myself

But isn’t that gift of salvation

Still freely provided, wildly sown for me?

To be saved from myself, by myself

God still rightly gets the kudos

God in the world

God of the world

God for the world

God in us

God of us

God for us

Stillness in the churchyard is what I see

Quiet goodness is what I feel

I am glad

June 2014   North Andover, Mass.

Copyright by Mark Bohrer

Church Hour (poem)

Church Hour

This one hour

This view from the center

A feeling of movement all around

But here, this calm center

Around which everything pivots

The center holds

The center of this wheel

The center of this week

I feel it now

Centripetal force now

Not the common opposite

Here things don’t fly apart

They come together

Like the sun with his careful hold

On those wanderers in the far sky

He holds, she holds, they hold, 

The spirit holds

This calming center

Such jovial gravity 

Fills and holds this quiet center

All at once

Joyous, brimming, bursting, buzzing

Glowing, swelling, soaring, singing



June 2014 North Andover, Mass.

Copyright by Mark Bohrer

PS This was written on a church bulletin while sitting in South Church before the Sunday service started, listening to the choir and organist rehearse, the indistinct background talk of friends greeting one another, the swirl of people gathering in faith. If you ever see me scribbling notes while sitting in church, it's usually because something has inspired me! I shared this poem with Pastor Dana, and then had the privilege and joy of reading it a few months later in front of the church as part of service!

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Your Muse - Poem - The Word from the Corner

The Word from the Corner
There is something I really like about artists who - no matter how amazing their gifts or abilities - are most in touch with what inspires THEM. And find ways to express that. Last fall we saw Brandi Carlile at Madison Square Garden. When she took the stage with her band, she bounded to center stage in front of the cheering crowd - and before a note was played - she knelt down, facing the audience, and kissed the stage. What a beautiful act! She paid respect to the place, the history of the performers before her, the audience, to the art of performance, to the music. I have a poem in the works about that night last September (hey, what's the rush), but yesterday evening this one came to me, inspired by the same thought. To echo a great teacher, in life, may you be inspired, and be inspiring!
PS Don't forget to vote. Early voting in North Andover Oct 17th thru Oct 30th

Your Muse

I bow before no one
Though I worship the ground
On which you walk

As you step onto the stage
I will not bow
Before you

But I wish to bow
Before the god
That you bow before

Who is your god?
Who is your muse?
Let us pray

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Connected - Poem - The Word from the Corner

The Word from the Corner

posted on Facebook North Andover Poets Corner

Writing poetry is simply about paying attention. It's like praying, except you're praying to the world. Sometimes the world prays back. Here's a poem that I wrote in 2017 that got lost in my papers, and for some reason I thought about it this week. Luckily, I found it. The world prayed back.
Don't get distracted. Pay attention. We're going to need our full attention. You know what I'm talking about. Strength. Resolve. Peace.
Every pore
every cell
every breath
every heartbeat
connects me to all that is.
When I spin
is it I who turn
or is the entire world turning
around my stillness?
I am here with all my kin
only separated by this thin veil of time
only separated by this thin veil.
You touch the whole world
the whole world touches you.
You are inseparable.
You are one.
Go forth and act
knowing the power you have
--Mark Bohrer August 2017

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Introduction - The Six Grandfathers

Introduction - The Six Grandfathers

Where This Poem Started

On this Independence Day 2020, I'm thinking about what it means to be an American. Is there a way for all people who live in this country to come together on common ground?  I wanted to share a poem I wrote a few years back about Mt. Rushmore and the mountain it was carved from - The Six Grandfathers. It captures my thoughts, my hopes.

This all started many years earlier with another poem I wrote titled “Ozymandias In Reverse”. That poem told of a person traveling in the desert who came upon great carved stones lying about on the land, and a tower built of these stones. The person wondered how these great building stones and tower came to be. The poem was an attempt to take the idea of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Ozymandias” and turn it on it’s head. It wondered if a great structure, rather than falling into wreck and decay with the passage of time, could somehow come into being, could come to greatness with the passage of time. 

The narrator in this poem comes to realize that the reason the great stones and tower are there may not be due the power of the hand that shaped and built them – they may only be there because everything else around them had worn away. The stones that remained had withstood the test of time.

Then I saw a beautiful picture of Mount Rushmore, a picture taken from the air, showing Washington’s face in profile. His face was like the prow of a ship, gazing out onto America. 

I had visited Mount Rushmore many decades before and had an image of the monument in my mind, but this picture struck me differently. Instead of us looking at the figures on Mount Rushmore and wondering about them, what do those figures think when they look out at this land? And then another question came to mind – what about the figures that are missing from this monument? What about those who lived on this land for millenia before the Europeans arrived?  

These great figures from our past – whether they are present in granite or in spirit – what do they see when they look out at their country, when they look at us? That’s where I started.

July 4, 2020   North Andover, Mass.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Open Mics, Climate Strike - and Great Barrier by Barbara Kingsolver

The Word from the Corner
published on North Andover Poets Corner

Go to an open mic poetry show when you have a chance. Why? Why do I go? These shows have taught me - reminded me really - of one thing. It's strange that I needed to be reminded, but I learn again that we are all feeling, thinking beings. We all have so much going on inside, all the time. 

 That's why I say there's no bad poetry, only honest or dishonest poetry. Or maybe only honest and not-fully-honest poetry. 

Great good poetry leads us to feel and think. It opens doors. It let's us step through. And we find ourselves standing in the same room as we started, but we see it for the first time. And we clearly see who and what we love. We feel and think. That's what poetry can do. 

Come out to the first Tuesday4Poetry Open Mic of the new season at the Stevens Memorial Library, this Tuesday, 7PM. Poet Blaine Hebbel from Ipswich is the feature, "Protest Poetry" is the theme. 

I went to the Climate Strike yesterday. Here's a poem by Barbara Kingsolver that speaks to the place where we find ourselves, behind a great barrier. Only Love will help us across. This is a kind of protest poem. Hope to see you Tuesday.

Great Barrier By Barbara Kingsolver The cathedral is burning. Absent flame or smoke, stained glass explodes in silence, fractal scales of angel damsel rainbow parrot. Charred beams of blackened coral lie in heaps on the sacred floor, white stones fallen from high places, spires collapsed crushing sainted turtle and gargoyle octopus. Something there is in my kind that cannot love a reef, a tundra, a plain stone breast of desert, ever quite enough. A tree perhaps, once recomposed as splendid furniture. A forest after the whole of it is planed to posts and beams and raised to a heaven of earnest construction in the name of Our Lady. All Paris stood on the bridges to watch her burning, believing a thing this old, this large and beautiful must be holy and cannot be lost. And coral temples older than Charlemagne suffocate unattended, bleach and bleed from the eye, the centered heart. Lord of leaves and fishes, lead me across this great divide. Teach me how to love the sacred places, not as one devotes to One who made me in his image and is bound to love me back. I mean as a body loves its microbial skin, the worm its nape of loam, all secret otherness forgiven. Love beyond anything I will ever make of it. (from Time Magazine, September 23, 2019)