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Well Done
Celebration for the Life of Otto Maduro

Well done.     Bien hecho.
The harvest is over.     La cosecha ha terminado.
The tools are laid aside.     Se han puesto al lado las herramientas.
The wheat waits.     El trigo espera.
Thresh. Grind.     Trillar. Moler.
Knead. Rise.     Amasar. Crecer.
Bake. Bless.     Hornear. Bendecir.
Break. Share.     Cortar. Repartir.
Hard-working verbs     Verbos de trabajo duro
For another day.     Para otro día.
Mañana.     Mañana.
For now,     Porahora,
In this moment,     en este momento,
It’s time to sit in the shade     es tiempo para reposar a la sombra y
And raise a glass in honor of the One     levanter la scopas honrando a quien es
Who is both seed and earth,     al mismo tiempo semilla y tierra
Grower and grown.     Cultivador y fruto.
Sower and sown.     Sembrador y siembra.

Heather Murray Elkins translated by Elias Ortega-Aponte May 2013 for Nancy

Dirty Words for an Earthy Woman (Keeping Ada In Mind)

You are a woman who uses dirty words.
Even your fingerprints bear telltale signs
of your grit,
your ground of birth.
Uproot one verb,
such a knotty network comes to light,
each sentence soiled,
each intonation layered with the loam
of your forbidden planet,
your off-limits home.

Where else can grammar go but underground
when birthplace is embargoed,
when mother tongue is homeless?
So you learn to talk dirty.
Profound profanity.
Intimate, angry sounds.
It suits you.
Nice is no way for a niño to talk.
You know your mother never raised you like that.

for Ada-Maria
March 1993

Hannah at St. Thomas

"Therefore I have lent him to the Lord..." 1 Samuel 1:28

In this madonna season I sit surrounded
by plain and not so plainsong,
searching for the one bright note attuned to my sound.
Like Hannah, I brave the eyebrowed skepticism
of presiding priests who rightly suspect
my presence is less pious,
more maternal.
No matter.
I know what I've laid on the altar.
Bone of bone.
Flesh of flesh.
A gift no usher could collect
in plates of silvered velvet.

In this madonna season I am reminded
that birth is just the first separation.
And though each sock is named, each letter numbered,
there's a loss which is never reclaimed.
For each procession moves through time as well as space,
and every turn reveals less child, more power in his face.
Neither maestro nor messiah,
he simply lives and moves and sings.
And in place of angel visits,
I only ask
that in his dark of night
he'll hear
all that is holy call him by name.


© 1990 Heather Murray Elkins



For Luther
(in spite of the law against beating dead metaphors)

I suffer from nostalgia
for a horse-drawn age
when human hearts could count
on being mounted.

Divinity driven,
thoroughly bred outlaws
once could be corralled.
By the light of a mid-evil moon
God or the Devil would croon,
"Back in the saddle again."

Where are sage riders of this purple age?
Better to be spurred by Absolutes,
than harnessed by ambition,
and made to chaff at bits
without a destiny in hand.

Ghost-ridden in our unwilled state,
our headless heart-strung age
stampedes toward the sunset
where four pale horsemen wait.

Yet still
against the last horizon
a horsewhipped thief of sin
hangs high,
barb wired in grief.
So still
he harnesses his will
to ride our fear bareback and die.

Ride on,
ride on, Humility.
Wild is Christ"s reign,
yet meek his seat.
May we jack asses
tethered by the Spirit
as we plod toward Calvary.


Heather Murray Elkins © 1987 revised 2009
All rights reserved






The last thing I need in a valentine
is some under-clad cupid
trying to puncture an over-worked will
and the last reserves of control.
Unbuttoned hope just leads to exposure.
Any extremity of emotion
brought on by Hallmark
deserves all the frostbite it finds.

Life's temperature gauge
has been down so long
Zero is up.
No plaster saint can convince me
there's a point to hearts and flowers
Even chocolate loses its appeal
when you pack it in your pocket
and get stuck in a snowdrift for days

When the threat of brimstone
begins to make sense
and headlines the news
it's time to rekindle Pentecost's fire.

Didn"t he say,
"Keep the peace and pass the salt?"
or was it,
"Hold your salt and pass the peace?"

Didn't he promise
The Spirit could find us
stiff as a board
stranded on ice,
frozen with fear and snow blind?

Check the calendar.
When can we turn up the heat?
Isn"t this the season
our ears should start to tingle
and our hearts get strangely warm?

Heather Murray Elkins © 1994, 2003



The Arts of Air

This poem requires blowing bubbles at the

In order to prepare for the future:
blow wishes in four directions,
mere rainbowed things
too sheer to be trusted
with heavy-handed sight.

In order to make memories, not monuments:

Now you see it.

Now you don"t.
Gestures of hope.

In order to succeed at Success:
invest in breath;
stir up a circle;
risk the wind;
bear the light.

Wholly Spirit
Wholly Human
Wholly Holy.

On you,
in you,
through you,

Rain glow.

Heather Murray Elkins © 1995
All rights reserved




Those who watch the winged world swinging on a branch or bramble
See the sacraments of earth offered every sunny day.
Those who believe in the secret life of bees and birds
Practice patience akin to prayer for a bare glimpse of heaven.

Those who dream of flying remain as rooted as the trees
Yet their longing is revealed in well-feathered nests
Where young can weather storms until the spring frees
Flights of imagination banded with an instinct for home.

Those who translate the cuckoo, the wren, whippoorwill, or chickadee
Will hear familiar sounds in the tongue of seraphim
As all things bright and beautiful cry, "Holy, Holy, Holy
To our Maker, our Mender, our Beginning and End."

In honor of Norms

Heather Murray Elkins © 2005
All rights reserved



Trust What You See...

Someone's gone ahead

And the Light at the end
is there as a sign.
not by accident
but design.

Trust what you can't see. . .

going is hard
but the road"s not too long,
the snow's not too deep
to keep the promises
that help you sleep.

Trust seeing and not seeing.
Someone is leaving the light on,
Someone is leading us home.

Heather Murray Elkins © February 2007
All rights reserved.