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December 2019

The Gray Gift

The Gray Gift


For the moment,

There is a blanket over everything

Like the one I woke up under

Anticipation of a holiday, perhaps

The blanket is light gray

It settles easily as it’s made up

Of daylight

I’m not sure what we might have done

To earn such protection and

And of

Muted beauty


It’s a quiet gift

And will last as long as diaphanous things


Maybe longer, since nature

Knows the way around Main Street

Over it (upon it)

To serve it

And to keep it going


C L Couch



Photo by wilsan u on Unsplash

I don’t know where this is, but it’s somewhere.


Invitation’s Curling—Come in, Already

Invitation’s Curling—Come in, Already


If Christmas is the first day, then

This is the sixth

But then that makes the fifth

The twelfth

So maybe Christmas is its own

And then the following

Twelve days are tributes,

Are a season ‘til the sixth,

The magi

The baptism by his cousin John

The revelation by a dove

Of who he is,

Which is a lot of growing up in

Twelve or thirteen days

He was in a manger

Only six days ago

And soon, depending on the full moon

And the spring,

He will be grown and on a forty-day

Journey to Jerusalem

Such things will happen in that time

The biggest coming later

A cataclysm of the each and sky

Pierced by hammered beam

And crushing empire

The abhorrence of nature, even human

The death of everything

That had been hopeful

The death of him

The death of us

Any prospects in an honest joy of living

Then the count of days, only after

And by going back,

Really begins


But before so much of that

There is this

Half-season of Christmas

Sing the carols

Claim the gifts

Play and work

Burn the homely fires

Testify to this

The witness in each moment


The time no one will wait for,

That is wait for well

It has arrived

However romantic,

The darkness of anticipation’s passed

We are here now

This is the best where and when

We have


C L Couch



Photo by Sora Sagano on Unsplash


Dark Heart

Dark Heart


Light, bring me light!

It must be nice to call for it

A monarch

Then expect it

If I want light, I’ll have to get it

Not to complain

I have matches that strike on anything

And it’s one payment of my bills

That’s current

And now we have the bulbs

That light and last

That are expensive

That is a promise of investment in


As for what’s inside, I’m unsure what to say

We say or see each new idea

As a light

A symbol in a balloon

A cartoon moment without words

Light to curse the darkness

Say the Christophers

Because darkness isn’t always bad

We call them the Dark Ages

We called it the dark continent

Though that was agenda

And racism

The agenda of racism

Belief to form a profit

Over people

Maybe we do better with the heart of darkness

Maybe not

But that is the end of light at the horizon

The entrance of the Congo

And the human being

And who is the main character

If not the continent itself

That without restraint

(another sort of character)

Ruins each of us—

And whose restraint


C L Couch



Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad, 1899 serially in Blackwood’s Magazine, published (whole) with other stories in 1902


The mission of The Christophers is to encourage people of all ages, and from all walks of life, to use their God-given talents to make a positive difference in the world. The mission is best expressed in The Christophers’ motto: “It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.”


Photo by Nathan John on Unsplash


White Night, Black Morning

(two poems)



White Night


A single truck moved through

Last night

With the covered sound a snowplow

Might have made

It is winter, but there’s nothing

Wintry happening yet

I’m fine with that

The problem, you know, is extremes

Zeniths of summer have

This problem, too

That it will be too much

People struggling already

Wrestling more with life

I’ll be inconvenienced

They’ll be killed

Many will try to help, I know

And in the midst of it will wonder why

If there’s an answer, I hope you find it

All of us between

The depths and heights

Should be busy only

In the best of ways

Waste saved for parties

The few dollars and the items it will take

To celebrate

But who can have a party while

Breathing through liquid

Without artificial, which is to say,

Human help?


Contrary to our practice

To be poor,

Help us restore the rest

Of hope

Hope for today

Bright hope for tomorrow

Finished for now

In another night


The last words are yours

Before we all can speak

The truth through lips

No longer dry,

No longer hungry



Black Morning


You are so beautiful

Yes, she is

He is

You are

In ways we don’t begin to understand

Like the moving parts of diamonds

That don’t move at all

Unless we have some help

To see


Somehow, the lovers have to live

The stories try

To make that impossible

That’s what they serve

In worldly expectation

And it’s the twist

The turn in the dark

A sprig of hope

Against the scabbed tree-trunk

That give us spring

That keep us reading


That keep us believing

Things we really need can happen



C L Couch



Photo by Hermes Rivera on Unsplash


Let Those Who Have Ears to Hear, Hear

Let Those Who Have Ears to Hear, Hear

(remembering the literal deaf hear better than most)


It’s odd to look outside

And see warm darkness

It should be colder, it’s December

In the immediacy of it, I don’t

Mind so much

It’s cool, my favorite kind of time

And whole cool days and nights are the best

But it feels like October

When October felt like August

It’s a good thing there’s no climate change

Those with no authority (the authority

of observation, anyway)

Have said so


But it is warmer

And after the convenience,

The warmer polar weather and

Elsewhere will turn catastrophic

There will so much evaporation from

The ground that in the air

There will be greater condensation,

Which leads to cloud cover

That can introduce another Ice Age

Earth had not been planning for,

Not yet


The irony of global warming,

We will have planetary winter

And unending

So what do we do?

You and I? I do not know

Listen to the scientists, the ones

Not in departments, ‘til they

(and they)

Are freed

Challenge corporations

Not because they are evil

But because they can be good

A new Earth-winter won’t serve

Them, either


Nations and industries will have to work

In tandem, and we mean it this time

We can make new jobs

And offer living wages, too

No real reason not to


If we remember that the Earth should be

Blue and green, mostly

All the other colors in their places

It really is a splendid sphere

That shines uniquely in the local heavens


If we decide that

Breathing air outside is good

Drinking water, too

Having grass and leaves to walk upon

Stones to climb

If we reason that a living planet’s better

Well, there is no better start,

Is there?

And now to join

Talk and move

Breathe and drink

Live as the Earth we need

And want


C L Couch



Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Fenton, Michigan, United States

Frozen Lake


Mis’ess Claus Testifies

Mis’ess Claus Testifies

(spelled out via T. Hardy et al)


Christmas got away from me

I still believe

You know who must be killing it?

The corrugated companies

It’s an expression, and I wonder

Please say you’re recycling

In some places, it is Boxing Day

In Sydney, that means kangaroos punching—


There will be boxes

There should have been enough


But receiving needs receiving

And in too many places

There was nothing

So as tradition and sense tells, give

More than that,

Give more

There are still too many dreams

That should have something


C L Couch



Photo by Vince Gx on Unsplash

Pyramiden, Svalbard et Jan Mayen

Factory in the Arctic


A New God

A New God


We hear

There is a new God in the world

And we’ve been told it’s jealous

Human words testify,

But there is supposed to be citation

This God promises to mete another kind of



The older things will happen, finally

Fire and damnation

Things you already know

But there is something first,

Something deserving awe for being new

To terrify the agenda-holders who believe

They have it all, and it is right to

Want the rest


Before their destruction, there is a surprise

Offered quietly, persistently, even with fragility

It is love

Obviating Armageddon

For a time


The merest wish for this

And it will offer to take charge

At least to guide

Sublimate all misdirected sense of

Dignity in righteousness

(though dignity itself is good)

To make, in fact, the person whole

Gently bring one to the altar

There to cry the truth

Then to reach for something better,

As it’s offered

All the time

Rather freely


The who have arrived in faith already

Know already about this

Try to live, fall, live again

An uneven, promising, frustrating

Celebratory kind of life

Whose delight in giving will give out

Just in time for paradise


C L Couch



Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash


A Tired God

A Tired God


There are days when I think

God must be tired

They’re days when I’m tired,

Naturally enough

But I get to wonder

If a God is allowed exhaustion, too

I guess not

God must be always ready

Always perfectly to take

Though we act as if we’re bored

Though we want God out of the picture

Or the action for a while

When we decide

There isn’t anything

We thought so, must have been

Peripheral shadow


When we’d rather curse

Then speak in love

Cheat our neighbor

Rather than uphold

Destroy parts of the planet

Because we’re not certain yet

How to destroy another

Though we’re practicing

And launching


I think with all this going on

God may be tired,

If she wants to be

Surely, he’s ready to give up

It might be time for another conversation

With a mortal

About how many might be righteous


C L Couch



Photo by Antônia Felipe on Unsplash

Borghese, Roma, Italia


A Response to “Cleon” by Robert Browning

A Response to “Cleon” by Robert Browning

(which has stuck with me for years)


Yon swimmer is an ode

Cleon says so

I paraphrase

To Proteus or something in authority

A tyrant in the Classical sense

A tyrant who knows virtue

They had those back then

And a patron

To the speaker of the poem

The writer of a letter


That does not hesitate to compliment

But also makes the case

For what is true

In your tyranny, perhaps

Argues Cleon

You might be missing something

When you elevate my art

Not that I don’t mind the support

Artists need that

But in understanding why the art is there

To tell you in itself

That life is better


Our art records and re-expresses

Interprets who we are and what we do

But the actions so much better

All the attributes that make us

They are real

Poets know this

Beyond an abstract exercise

So we will write

Sculpt words on paper

Into pieces that might find you

Whole, more whole for this


While replacing nothing

Enhancement, we hope

Greater clarity

A lesson, if we must

Learning in other ways

To trust


I recall because it comes to me,

Now and then

Having looked up nothing for a while

(the swimmer is a rower,

and Proteus is Protus

while English majors smoosh words to pass

the comprehensive)

But the epistle goes on meaning much

To me

I try to keep it real

Real enough,

As Cleon’s maker trusts

The last apostle who wrote letters

To the faithful


C L Couch



(from) “Cleon,” Robert Browning

. . .

The many years of pain that taught me art!

Indeed, to know is something, and to prove

How all this beauty might be enjoyed, is more:

But, knowing nought, to enjoy is something too.

Yon rower, with the moulded muscles there,

Lowering the sail, is nearer it than I.

I can write love-odes: thy fair slave’s an ode.

I get to sing of love, when grown too grey

For being beloved: she turns to that young man,

The muscles all a-ripple on his back.

I know the joy of kingship: well, thou art king!

. . .

I cannot tell thy messenger aright

Where to deliver what he bears of thine

To one called Paulus; we have heard his fame

. . .

(two places easily to find the poem)


Photo by Quino Al on Unsplash

Puerto Marina, Benalmádena, Spain

Momentos antes del inicio del Triatlón de Benalmádena.



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