Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Soil of Heaven

A friend asked me to post this chapbook from nearly twenty years ago.  Some of these poems were part of a submission to Poet magazine for their chapbook competition in 1994. --egh

The Soil of Heaven

© Copyright 1995

Gordon Edwards
926 Rockrimmon Road
Stamford, CT 06903

Backing up
to the earthen door
of life's common experiences
and listening
to the whispers just inside,
these were voices
of the Angels' song


The Body of Faith

Love's Sacrament

A glass of wine
a loaf of bread
two lovers sit
few words are said

A rush of blood
a twinge of flesh
in presence we
two souls may mesh

And this thou
and also not
love's sacrament
no element lost

                                    4 May 81


I have seen the
face of God
in the
burning passion
of red hearts
smoking with life
as the bush
on the mountain top,
the very brush
the cradle of grace.
When we cry
out in ecstasy
to God in heaven
and die in naked truth
is when I feel
most alive,
With the grace
of an artist’s
His hand reaches
cross the barrel
and touches our oneness
in the dark.

                        15 May 94

The Seducer

She moves
like a finger
a glance
stirring in
my vision,
heat from
days' repast.

to the sound
of labored
on my knees --
caught upon
the altar web
I am no longer

                                    28 Feb 94


Christmas I

one moment of white silence lay
between the dashing and festivities
on a crisp New England morning‑eve
as the sun wakes from passivity

the old gray house is empty now
so very quiet, so very large
I in my castle and you in yours
safe from the past, feigning courage.

four authors rehearse the annual news
that God is with us:  emmanuel
when heaven landed on rocky shores
the myth of autonomy to dispel.

tonight I'll hold you in my arms
as yesterday fades dimly past
and with the best gift I can give
whisper softly: merry christmas.


Roots below

The book jacket said
his poems were accessible,
not the obscure words
and images that dot the fringes
of intelligence and madness.
but the common words,
the ones we might use
to tell a family story,
or what happened
in the movie we saw last night.

It's not surprising
that Emmanuel was often found
in the midst of sinners,
probably drinking a glass
of non‑vintage table wine.
no doubt this incensed
the learned folks of the day,
the guardians of the secret knowledge
that takes years of study
to travel to the outer reaches
of logic and appreciation,
finally reaching the holy of holies.

But this cup, this vessel,
stained with finger prints
sitting on the picnic table
of the local pub,
was more apt to quench
the thirst of the carpenter.

If the words of the poet
reach you in such a place,
God speaks with His arm
wrapped around your shoulder,
slaps you on the back,
and whispers a word more divine
than all the mysteries of heaven.

                                    3 Jul 93

Light Above

I was turning
the corner.
car packed to
ceiling with
my office remains,
Christmas two days
Between seven
and eight,
night had already
There, up the street
in front of the church
was a glow of light,
the detour unrelenting.
Stopping the car
with Henley playing
to the moon,
the tears clouding my eyes,
the tree lit up in
the year falling behind.

                                    14 Jan 94


Christmas II

Good News sometimes
comes on the wings
of angels,
or the musty air
of a dark stable,
But rarely does
it change a heart
all wrapped up in
sweet success,
as much it does
the fallen star,
clenched in the
fist of a
new Christmas morn.


God of straw

In a world
of pinstripe
ivory towers
and inner
oval offices,
the majesty
of grace
is that this
rough hewn
of cattle feed
and peasant cloth
holds the one
who timid hearts
and even hold
the naked
as their

                        9 Dec 94

Christmas III

Listening to angels sing
in the fade of the skyline
hearing trumpets
on the white noise of airwaves
to the cries
of a new babe in winter
with the lovers
who kiss in the morning
for the song
that comes dressed
in the clothes of Christmas
comes to the tending


Lost and Found


Barren woman of the west
came to worship in the depths
where old saints tombs
hung like building blocks
tossed upon an altar.
she seeks a child in her prayers
the mass is said in foreign tongue
will the old saint make it so?
she comes to take the broken host
in this dark space a world away
closer to the heavenly throne
holy place, what is withheld?

                                                22 Oct 94

Icons at the Gate

It offends
our sense of
the thought
stirs the
our sense of
the alternative
believed with
quick dispatch.

But this man
this one
with simple joy
from a Sunday
in a proper
white clapboard church,
delighted at the
grace of God
the message rides
along his words
like diamonds atop
a coal car.

So what are we
to do?
the prophet is
not one of us,
the man
is not the
and this issue

is not a matter
of principle,
no longer
simply cliched,
for now it has
a face.
                                    18 Nov 93


The vestry
gathered about
the meeting table
like disciples at
the last supper,
where the food
and drink were
not the kind
that satisfied
the hunger,
but the
gristly issues
of gays,
and pulpits.
we chewed
and grimaced
on its taste,
unable to consume
the spread laid out
in its enormity,
we choked on its extremities.
for this meal
was not
the passioned beliefs
of distant matters.
this one lived
at home,
where we worshipped,
where we gathered,
where we ate,
as one;
where he served himself
to each,
and touched us
in our righteousness.

                                    5 Dec 93


The tired
and worn
stressed forlorn,
pallor painted
in ties,
collars white
and matching
of business
leaders who
pose as God's
they know
nothing of
the competitor's
the power of
the human spirit,
the profit
of hope,
it is an ember
in need of
lest it die
a shrinking coal.

                                    9 Nov 93

Looking for the Saint

We came to find St. Francis'
and gaze upon the plaster
murals of his life,
the renowned frescoes up above
in the basilica superiore.
down the steps descended
the darker work was done,
here he preached to the birds
in the basilica inferiore.
further still
down to the chapel of the tomb
hung in rock below the marble altars
a group of pilgrims sang and prayed
a mass we did not understand
but here at the roots of faith
with St. Francis now we were.

                                                22 Oct 94

Saints and Sinners

Mother Marie

Seated in a wheel chair
old woman with the trace
of golden hair,
fierce eyes --
carrying the fleece
of the Lamb
in her lap,
the finger of God
in her grip.
She held on to my sleeve
and wouldn't let go,
it kept me from
falling away 
in my embarrassment
to flee from her
impulsive, holy way.
She had to bless me
before she died
whether I sought
the balm
or just to get
the awkward moment by.
Oh, She wouldn't save me
till I let her have
the upper hand.

                                    16 Mar 94


A colleague died
the other day.
I didn't know him well.
We served a common God
in a white New England church,
where this final scene played out.
I am told his life
was a seven hundred page novel.
I entered about page six ninety five.
I hadn't a clue about the plot
or turns his story took;
but we heard some vignettes ‑‑
sound bites in the eulogy.
That final sentence
closed the chapter,
as the words tumbled
to the paper's edge;
the period marked
where the ink had dried.
The book closed
with hushed amens,
was walked to the
shelf next door,
and slipped between
two other tomes;
its spine marked with
the years as a title we knew.
How I wished there
were more to read.

                                    24 Aug 93


Pearls Around Her Neck

she sat there
stiffly upright
with pearls around
her neck
as the wedding guests
flew in glee,
full of wine
and celebration,
on the dance floor
pulsing with the
music loud,
fork frozen
before her
open mouth,
eyes on the
edge of modesty
and disgust.
A good Christian Lady
did not
did not
did not
with all the
solemnity of
a funeral,
as if Lazarus' tomb
was more holy than Cana.
there truth and goodness
laughed at the
vast supply of wine
gone dry.

                                    10 Jan 94

The care of souls

She handed
out prayer
like the medicine
of the mass,
aspirin to make
the problem go away --
the care
of the soul
at arms length,
pointing at
a photograph
in an album pocket
then the next --
an open Bible
covering her nose
as if an
ailing soul
were catching,
she quickly
turned the page.

                                    11 Jun 94


Her world was not much larger
than a ginger bread house,
a kitchen bathed in the smell
of baking chocolate cake,
the bloom of butter cream flowers.

Within these four small walls
deep breathing was understandable.

Here the breads of Christmas,
birthday cupcakes, wedding cakes,
cream puffs and petite fours
were crafted by her gentle hands.

Here was the icing of special days,
days that mattered deeply to us all.

Though none of us were ever content
with ginger bread, here we returned
to lick the batter, savor the special
moments with candles, revelry and song.

In this small cradle we were each reborn
breathing deeply the dust of heaven.

                                                17 Sep 94


He was seen as
the gentle man
with a bow tie,
candles dancing in his eyes,
slowly reading stories from
the book on Sunday morn,
he sat with his beloved
in the old white church,
on the left, first pew back.

He is no longer here,
the seat now vacant,
the book lay open bare
without his finger on the page.

How many other tomes
did he touch
with a helping hand?
Some are gathered here
about this simple lectern,
some are scattered 'round about
like autumn leaves rustled
by his gentle breath --
listeners of his words.

You who gather sorrow,
listen to his life,
the light flickers yet
in their stories told.

                                    10 Nov 94

The Tyrant of Presence

It was five years ago
we laid Marie to rest.
I can still feel
the slip of polished wood
she rode beneath
the horizon of the earth
and view.
She still tugs
at my sleeve
holding me captive
for her blessing
and her curse.
Just one more soul,
one more,
just one.
Wanting to escape,
to be free of her,
but remembering
her most.
The frail tight cough
of breath
of the tyrant of presence
wrestled me
to stop
and listen
to the wind outside,
she runs through
my finger tips.
Hold on
grand woman
hold on.

                                    28 Jan 95

Elder Best

"we have the best church,
the best preacher
(the best faith),"
the feathered elder said,
with chest puffed
he was a spring robin
stalking subterranean prey.
the church was so white
so tall , so old,
the faithful few were lost.
when it came time to pray,
for the Spirit to descend
like tongues of fire,
he knelt a fallen man
with arms spread wide
above his head,
his eyes squeezed shut,
head bowed and trembled,
waiting for the tongues
that never came
thinking on what was only best.

                                    16 Oct 95

In the Wilderness

Waiting in line
on March the first
nineteen ninety five
people snaked out
the door
onto the street
the chain pulled in
by the gear teeth
of the church calendar.
"from ashes you came,
to ashes you return,"
said the old priest
for the thousand
and first time,
click, turn, next
(his hearing aid
turned off
to avoid his drone
in the wilderness)
click, turn, next
his thumb smudged
you out with
the charcoal X,
today's mark of
as you stepped fore
a notch and looked
into his silver eyes,
you could see forever
in his blank stare
back over the line
of a thousand
and two
empty faces.

                                    1 Mar 95


Hovering over
the reservations book,
two angelic maitre d's
looking for the magic
like new travelers
at the airplane window
for the clouds to part.
the names upon the list
opening the gates
to the banquet table
then the smile
and the welcome
for the honored guests.

                                    9 Aug 94

Holy Places

Bells of St. Francis'

They stood along the sides
of the old Saint Francis' church
hands wrapped in white felt gloves
holding golden bells aloft.

We sat in the center pews
a parish on a stage
the choir wrapped around us
our hearts within their grasp.

They rang unto the morning
in a whisper counting beats
feet softly tapping floor boards
too old to lie asleep.

On rising notes of song
we soared to the old white roof
hands holding us high as fists
of God shaking out our souls.

Music only heard as one
from many notes and hands
the bells calling, calling
a steeple in our midst.

                                    5 May 94


Gabriel blew his trumpet
to the side
while the half moon
of the choir
sang the old hymn
in the narthex at Vezelay.
The French verses
without meaning,
but a tourist in this place
hearing the notes
echo from the arched ceiling
far above, still touching
the heart of the stranger.

                                    2 Oct 94


We joined a small
group of French pilgrims
celebrating mass
in the tomb of St. Francis' Chapel
Monday morning.
Though we understood
a few words spoken,
the faith if the communion
spoke clearly.
Like the Assisi stairways
in the artist's work,
the symbols of heaven
stretch from the City of God
to the streets beneath our feet,
truly holy ground.

                                    11 Oct 94

At Grace Cathedral

(when the doors were opened)

The gray concrete majesty
of the great cathedral on the hill
dwarfed the pilgrims
who climbed the steep walkways
that lined the cable-whistled streets
climbing Ararat to see
if the Ark still rested
on its craggy moor.
The white-haired cleric
leaned forward from his perch
with voice bounding from every
arch and columned trunk
"the work of God," he said,
"is to love the hell out of us"
--a life long work no doubt.
Yet in this hallowed hall
of terrifying pomp and feared misstep
one wondered whether He was
here to scare the hell out
of us as well.

But when the trio of men
standing to my right
unabashedly embraced
with echoes in their eyes,
it was clear
the doors of grace were opened,
like the fingers of fog
reaching over the hills,
hiding and revealing
the majesty of the tabernacle,
its hand wrapped around this
single pew and touched the gray
tweed shoulder of the pilgrim,
and said to those who held
and watched,
no standing on this mount
save standing arm in arm.

                                    29 Jan 95 rev.

Listening at the Gate


On a New England road
at the height of Autumn,
if the traffic dies
for a few minutes
and the wind is held
you can hear each red
and yellow leaf as it falls
to the driveway
like a crispy snowflake
dancing on the asphalt.
You wouldn't hear it otherwise
and in a week or three,
it will all be gone.
But if you listen now
and crane your neck a bit
you may hear God whisper
in the quiet of the fall.

                                    18 Oct 94


Two men stood
beside the twisted wreckage
of what was a late model Thunderbird,
fire engine red.
One, the driver of the Ford,
the other of the semi that reduced it
to flattened metal,
wheels, and broken glass.
They were fast to the crossroads,
a right on red
and a rush on changing yellow.
Eighteen wheels spun the car around
in the howling of a twister
as the Kansas house on route to Oz.
Now both are shaken men,
one who walked away alive
and one just innocent of death.
None of us rushes to the graveyard,
few are given such a pause.
While the wrecking truck
carts away what's left
and the sheriff writes
the three part form
of time and place and cause,
one wonders what these two witnesses
of their intersection
took with them to tomorrow
and what was left behind.

                                    9 Apr 95

The Prize

Catch it
before it flies away
the tiny silver moth
that disappears
when it moves front
the printed flower wall
lost in the
busy color patterns.
waiting until
it moves again
scanning left
to right --
it was here
a moment ago!
reaching quickly
sometimes yields
an empty hand,
and then the
patience pays
the watchful eye,
it brings its
brief flutter
into the grasp.
placing the
prize on
paper white
may be a mounted
trophy held still
by careful pins
but when left to fly away
may leave the
dust of heaven.

                                    1 Feb 95

The voice in a crowd

God is silent
in the silent places,
the smooth
running streams
of days.
It is rather in
the din of
pain and tragedy
that he rings
with the bells,
breaks our ears
with his silent presence,
takes our hand
and holds us to
his breast.
He whispers
with the thunder.

                                    24 Jul 94

Earthen vessels

The priest says
we live our lives
in earthen vessels,
and I smile
as I remember the
church school verse.
now I am fascinated
by the nuance of the wine
that fills the jug.
but it is wine I never drink
and I would guess wrong
if asked to pick
the year and grape
from a single sip.
for less frivolous pursuits
at the heart of moral matter --
how I ache to state
the simple truth.
forgetting that this
holy water is not yet wine
and this earthy glass
is dark
the light within,
so dim.
                                    20 Oct 95


Listen closely
to your lives,
to each
each song
and the harmony
you make
amid the
happiness and joy
the tragedies
and rain,
there is
truth here
and goodness
and love
among the we.

                                    1 Sep 93

The Soil of Heaven

He was found
backing up
to the earthen door
of life's common experiences
and listening
to the whispers just inside,
these were voices
of the Angels' song
and he was thirsty
for the Holy sound.

                        29 May 95

Gordon Edwards

Gordon Edwards is the nom de plume for Edward G. Happ, a businessman from Stamford Connecticut. Mr. Edwards has been writing poetry for the past thirty years, and was most recently a 1994 runner up in Poet magazine's annual American Chapbook contest. A graduate of the Liberal Arts College of Drew University, he began writing poetry in the eighth grade, at the encouragement of a junior high school English teacher.

"It is the incarnation of grace in the simplicity of ordinary language and experience, the 'Word ... dwelt among us,'  that drives my writing.  A reviewer summed up my poetry as 'a kind of sophisticated simplicity.'  My intention is not to be 'sophisticated,' but to strive for two things in each piece.  On the first reading I want readers to hear something that connects with their own experience. On second reading I hope they see with me the more that is 'enclothed' beneath the common surface."