Monday, May 1, 2023

Great Barrier By Barbara Kingsolver


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)

To learn more about how we can save the Great Barrier Reef go to

Thursday, August 11, 2022

The Beloved Circle (poem)

 The Beloved Circle

(A Poem In 2 Parts)

For Jenn


Part 1: Food For The People

Breathe in – Breathe out –

A warm wind blows –

A warm wind breathes through us all –

A warm wind carries us out into the world –


The wind of the world carries far over deep waters –

The wind of the world gathers the waters from deep, bottomless seas –

It calls forth faith.

The breath of earth’s creation flows over the earth –

The breath of earths’ creation carries hidden seeds as it spreads over the lands –

The breath of earth’s creation carries the sweetness of the flower within – 

    so ready to bloom in its path –

It summons hope.

The breath of the lands and the wind of the waters seek one another as they travel and do their work –

The breath of the lands and the wind of the waters greet and join hands – they dance –

They show how to love.

The breath and the wind move together over the lands –

The breath and the wind spread a dew that covers the lands –

They show their joy.

The breath and the wind bring forth the grasses and trees and flowers, 

    alive, springing forth in fullness –

The breath and the wind greet and join making the shape of all peoples –

    the people step onto the land –

The breath and the wind finish their work and rise into the calm of the sky –

The dew lifts and transforms its fullness into manna –

Manna for the people.

From the people, someone – just one of many – is there walking on the grass –

From the people, someone – just one of many – sees the manna, bends and gathers it for the people –

Someone – just one of many – is named Jenn.

She turns to the people with what she has found and speaks, clear for all to hear –

“Hey! Manna! Cool. I think it’s pretty deep. Pretty sure on that. Hey beloved, want some?”

The people are nourished.

The people laugh and are glad.


Part 2: Tell Me Who Is Beloved

Tell me, who is beloved?
Who is in?
Who is in the circle?
Who is worthy of love?
Who is worthy?
The ancient word. Beloved.
The ancient word. Friend.
The ancient word, to the root. Free.

Who is in the same clan?
Who is worthy of love?
Who is in the circle?
Who is worthy of freedom?
Who is beloved?
You are. You are. You are.

No one may be kept out.
Draw the circle wide.
Draw the circle to the horizon and the open sky.
No one may be kept out.
Open the door to all.
The door is open.
All may enter freely and be at ease.

Who is in the same clan?
Who is in?
Who is in the circle?
Who is worthy of freedom?
Who is worthy?
Who is worthy of love?
Who is beloved?
You are. You are. You are.

The ancient word.

by Mark Bohrer, for Jenn

Saturday, February 12, 2022

After Dickinson (poem)

The Word from the Corner

Shared on North Andover Poets Corner on FB

We are watching the show Dickinson. Very recommended! Watching this show as a poet or as anyone who loves the power of words, you will be transported. It's really well done - a lot to like about it - as it bends history in artful ways to open up Emily Dickinson, her life, her times and her words. I won't say more about it, other than it inspired this poem today. Here it is.


After Dickinson 

Poetry is best
done in private
out of the light
done in a dark room
then destroyed 
but remembered 
like the echo of light
when an eclipse burns
permanent on the eye

After I wrote this, I found this one by Emily Dickinson:

We grow accustomed to the Dark -
When Light is put away -
As when the Neighbor holds the Lamp
To witness her Good bye -

A Moment - We uncertain step
For newness of the night -
Then - fit our Vision to the Dark -
And meet the Road - erect -

And so of larger - Darknesses -
Those Evenings of the Brain -
When not a Moon disclose a sign -
Or Star - come out - within -

The Bravest - grope a little -
And sometimes hit a Tree
Directly in the Forehead -
But as they learn to see -

Either the Darkness alters -
Or something in the sight
Adjusts itself to Midnight -
And Life steps almost straight.


Sunday, February 6, 2022

My Broadway Song: Shouldn't it? A Manifesto in Song

My Broadway Song

Shared on Rockport Poetry on Facebook

How did I find myself up at midnight...with the thought: "What is poetry? What should it do?" Well, if you ask this question, the first thing you know is "Yes, you're a poet!"

But here's how I found myself facing this question at midnight, and how I answered it:

You never know where inspiration is going to come from, or where it's going to take you.  Bob Whelan invited me to feature at this week's Rockport Poetry event, this coming Wednesday. I wanted to write something new for that evening. Well, I did, but not based on the original idea I had in mind. 

This Friday night, I watched the documentary "Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened". It's about the making and subsequent history of the 1981 Sondheim-Prince musical "Merrily We Roll Along". The musical featured young performers - ranging from 16 to 25 years old - all who had never performed on Broadway. Steven Sondheim and Hal Prince were at the height of their powers after a string of musical successes like Company, A Little Night Music, and Sweeney Todd.

"Merrily We Roll Along" closed after only 16 performances. Audiences got up and walked out during the show. It ended the Sondheim-Prince collaboration and almost drove Sondheim to quit  musical theatre.

The documentary about "Merrily We Roll Along" is beautiful and touching since it not only has great footage from the tryouts and rehearsals (captured as part of an ABC special that was never released), it follows the life path of these young performers over the next 25 years of their lives. A good number stayed in theatre, some with great careers on Broadway. Most did stay for a while but then found other paths, other callings.

But all were deeply affected by this wonderful life-changing experience - that ended in critical failure. They went from the heights of their dream together to the depths of rejection and disappointment. As young people.

Ok, it was midnight when I had the thought, "What is poetry? What should it do?"  

I finished the thought with "It should do something..." 

From there, I found myself writing a Broadway musical number! Here are the lyrics. I am going to sing this on Wednesday. It may or my not turn out to be art, but I bet it will be worth tuning in for.

I hope to see you there. Look for event info from our host Bob Whelan. 

Saturday, February 5, 2022

The real thing we call God (poem)

 The Word from the Corner

Shared on North Andover Poets Corner on Facebook

I write a number of poems about God, which is a little weird since I'm not sure I believe in God. To be philosophical, I do believe in Love and Justice as informing principles of the world, as creative essences of reality, the fundamental reality, as real as sunlight, quarks and dark energy. So yes, I believe in God. And of course, so goes the joke, I'm glad that God believes in me.
I read this one last night at Lee Eric Freedman's ReachArts/Swampscott First Friday Open Mic, a great open mic, with poetry & music.
I wrote this in December 2019 - before Covid. Strangely, it makes more sense now. May it serve. Peace.

The real thing we call God

The real thing we call God keeps reappearing reappearing every time we give up reappearing every time we say God help me, I can’t go on Every time we are worn out by the friction of other people saying no purpose, no purpose worn out by the friction of life worn out by the friction of ourselves
saying no purpose, no purpose Wait in the field of dust in the field of dust, wait let the rain fall let it clear the dust let it clear the field let the water run
let the river run let it carry you to the quiet let the silt find its place let the water find its home let the water clear let the water still wait wait When we stand or sit empty empty of this life when we carry nothing but this heavy emptiness when we carry nothing the real thing appears God God thank you How can God appear out of nothing? wait wait

--Mark Bohrer December 2019

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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