Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Jacob Breathing

Once you took your watery breath
from my lungs.

Now you take my breath away
with your dazzling lunge
and lope and skip and sway.
Every single day.

You breathe,
and a thousand wisdoms weave
a silvery truth.

Once I held my breath
through your youth
waiting to exhale with your rise
from distressed denim confusion
to wool-blended, two-button wise.

Now, with sighs,
And loss of last illusions

we worry through the
rasp and gasp and wheeze

on our knees,

while Father breathes into your nostrils
the breath of life
like a cool and healing breeze.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


She opens a book
lifts a trembling hand
and breathes...
(because she believes)

a prayer within
her sigh
a note
a chord

We praise our Lord
following the movements
of her hand
in lullaby, in anthem
and in hymn

Led by her
who is led
by Him.

The Storm

(On coming Back)

After the laughter of afternoon sun–
After the bluest, clearest sky–

In the interim

a quivering, shimmering sigh
snatched from the lung by a thieving gust,
gruff and rumble,
roil and blust,
sucking at air,
spitting out soil,
taking spoil,
chasing itself narcissistically on,
howling a raucous, virulent song

opens Heaven,
her powerful wings
dropping elixir of crystalline rain
to the beat of tympanic thunderings.

Taking a deep breath now and then,
whispering the furies to calm again,
slowing the breathing, quieting the din,

As the Sun’s rays stream down,
peace within.

July 25, 2002


As this mother’s heart breaks,
Heaven aches with the weight
of hurts and words
that permeate

the heavy air, the heavy heart --
both heaving at the leaving
of the offspring grown apart.

Falls the tears and
falls the rain --
both of us weeping with the pain,

wondering if we'll feel peace again,
we grieve.

Because we believe,
Heaven wails in
empathetic storm.

We're grateful for prayers,
both uttered and answered,
that find us here now
safe and warm.

Fall 2002


I am not the one
who lit the torches,
struck the first punch,
drafted forces...

I did not desert
to enemy ranks:
or shout out orders
to camouflaged flanks...

As your blitzkrieg drowned out voices
of innocents, children;
obliterating choices...

I locked the doors,
reinforced casements ,
gathered the victims
from shell-shocked basements...

When the deed was done,
I mucked out chambers,
bandaged scarred hearts,
banished the strangers

I still bear the scars...
Still hear the voices...
Still mourn the losses...
Still mourn the choices...

I gather the pieces
with no bandage or glue
to help me restore
what was torn apart
by you...

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Keepers of the Light

She stands alone
In the quiet of the lighthouse
Silently searching
The surface of the sea.

She watches for those ships
Who may have lost their way
In the dark fog.
She shines her light
And lets them see their way home.

She doesn’t ask how or why they strayed.
She only knows they did,
And her job is
The keeper of the light.

She does it well.

One can never tell
When it will be we
Who are called to be
Keepers of the light—
Not to speak, or to steer,
Simply to watch,
Then share our light
And welcome the ships home.

The Gardener

like a fragile blossom
then fades
then is forgotten.

I will plant
the hopeful seedling
though I know
it’s gift is fleeting.

I will still
the gentle scent
though I know
it’s transient.

I will still marvel
at the flower,
revel in
its glory hour.

I will still
its velvet leaves
and, with its wilting
will I grieve.

But I will plant
that seedling still,
bending to
a higher will.


She rises
from the ashes
of a consuming flame
(hence the name)
more brilliant that she'd
Ever been.
Eternal fires
Kindled within.

In the Garden

I labor in the vineyard

barefoot and bare-souled

clinging to the tools I'm given

with a weak and trembling hold,

waiting to lay the world aside,

my mind on the din and clutter,

hoping for some small simple relief

in a promised world, new and better.

As my bruised knees hug the soil,

as my fingers bleed and toil,

as I tend both petal and thorn,

a seedling of new faith is born.

And as His Spirit soothes my pain,

as He cools my sweat with rain,

as His hand encloses mine,

it's easier to tend the vine.


This is the game

I said I'd never play.

Rules I thought I knew

suddenly changed by you.

I don't know what to say.

Time-out called mid-play.

I spoke,

and the whistle blew.

Penalty imposed by you.

I don't know what to do...

We, the team,

are split in two.

For She Loved Much

If she came today

anointing our feet with expensive oils*,

rinsing with her tears

and drying with her hair,

our jaws would gape

in unbelieving, unattractive stares...

So she must come

bearing gifts we recognize:

fine meals, smiling eyes,

generous expenditures of purse and time,

and laughter filling us with music

and with rhyme...

for she loves us much.

And we, who feel so undeserving,


knowing she believes us

worth her while.

*Luke 7:47


I squeeze my trembling knees

tightly to my chest,

clench my eyes and teeth

and try to calm by pounding breast.

Tears escape my eyelids,

overflowing with my fears

trickling through the many sets

I've played inside and out for years.

Like so many starving actors

snatching pieces of my brain

(I'm not sure I can play a scene

from the pieces that remain).

Shadowed figures flail and pitch

in dramatic fits of rage

and laughingly destroy by script

as they overtake my stage.

But out there in the audience

through darkness soft, I hear

two hands clapping just for me

as I enter from the rear.

I say my lines, stand on my mark

(continues, the applause).

I speak my last soliloquy...

Silence...(with my pause).

Then follows an explosion
with cheering and ovation;

the house lights flood the audience

of only Him in adoration.

And all at once I realize

that He has been them all

director, writer, audience--

He, smiling, cries for curtain call!

But I Have Prayed For Thee

-Luke 22:31-32

“Behold, Satan hath desired to have you,
that he might sift you as wheat…”

Here in my anguish
my defeat,
I believe He’s won.

I’ve come undone.

Faith lies rumpled
like discarded clothing
at my feet.

The sifting of my soul
nearly complete.

“But I have prayed for thee…”

Could it really be?
A Father’s Son,
a Savior,
on His knees,
in prayer
for me?

Before Arriving at His Door

Before Arriving at His Door
(Matt 25)
We assemble
each with our color
and textures and sizes--
all with our palettes
of spirit surprises--
foolish and wise
still we gather
here at His Table
willing and able,
like so many lamps,
yours fuller, mine lacking
his flowing, hers glowing
theirs dim
coming to Him
in consecration--
a celebration of amber and blue,
scarlet, ecru and clear
sharing our store
so they who have less
have more.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Turning Hearts

"The hearts of the children

shall turn to the fathers..."

...and to the mothers.

With siblings still at rest in my nest,

I'm blessed, but missing the others.

I yearn for the fledglings' return to me,

those lately-flown few

who've soared far from my nursing,

my gentle rehearsing of verses and truth,

the stuff of their youth.

They've now outgrown

my yearning heart

and I am necessarily

learning the art of letting fly

while holding on

to the promise of their hearts turning...

knowing they're gone, but off and on returning

quieting my yearning.


I have met a part of you

that you have yet to know;

a hero humbly waiting

for his chance to face the foe--

a man that you don't realize

is struggling to break free

to be the mighty warrior

he was sent to earth to be.

Magnificent in stature,

brilliant to behold,

and in his hand, the sword of truth:

Shining. Polished. Gold.

His heart holds much of sorrow
his mind still shelters pain,

and still, he steps out boldly

on the battle-scarred terrain

and all of the mistakes he's made

have tempered him like steel

combined to make the whole of him


and Real.

Return of the Prodigal

You left before you left, you know
and couldn't know how far you'd gone
or how far you'd need to go--

packed up the Spirit and Truth
of your youth,
hid them behind your 80 proof,
spent all your time with Jack*,
and Jim**, and Mary Jane***,
always trying, always failing
to forget from whence
you came.

This time the leaving
has brought you back Home.

How far you'd gone.
How far you've come.

*Jack Daniels
**Jim Beam

To a Child Too Soon Grown

When you were very small
with thumb and tricot never far
from your lips,
I would brush the hair
that tangled in your lashes
with my fingertips.

You would smile with chubby-cheeked delight
throwing stubby arms
around my face
in an open-mouthed, wet
toddler-tight embrace.

I would hold your squirming
to my heard, and you would start
to pull away
your little brain already chugging
toward the next stop-plop
like a two-year-old, diapered train.

If I had only known
you'd travel faster than a baby's breath
from those days to these....

If I had known you'd glide
from child to woman like a breeze
from earth to trees...

I would have held you close
a moment longer
trying just to make it last
long as a lollipop.
I wouldn't stop
as precious seconds passed.

But you would be already off,
bouncing baby fat from my lap,
to the floor, to the door
to the day...

hurrying away...

hurrying away....

Monday, April 27, 2009

Becomes a Man

-a day of confession*

My son goes to the high place
to lay his burdens by,
to give away his sins to know Thee.

You and I,
mother mortal and Father God
have watched the path
his feet have trod...
we've walked along
and stepped aside,
we've picked him up,
we've prayed,
we've cried...

And now he kneels
on hills Thy hands hath made
and at the rocky altar
sheds his sins
like so many thin, crackling
worn-for-too-long skins.

The Heavens rain tears of joy.
The sun smiles down upon
what used to be a boy.

He stands up

This is the day
the Lord hath made.

*D&C 74:7

Monday, April 20, 2009

Lord of the Harvest

The wheat grows side by side
with the tares
and side by side with the wheat.

Sometimes they seem a single plant
and sometimes they barely meet.

What seeds are sown are sometimes known;
Sometimes seeds blow with the breeze.

Sometimes the gardener is worn
to the bone,
and sometimes she’s on her knees

tending the tender shoots and stems,
blowing away the chaff.

Sometimes she wanders
the rows alone,
sometimes on the Lord’s behalf.

Sometimes she reaps just
what she has sown.
Sometimes the weeds appear.

The difference between the wheat
and the tares
is often a little unclear.

But the Lord of the Harvest
holds each in His Hands,
along with the prints of the nails.

And blessed with His holy
touches of Grace
the wheat, even tattered, prevails.

God bless the gardener who gently tends,
and God bless the weary,
the strangers, and friends

who comb through the golden tresses of wheat
and find what is sacred,
and sweet.

-swestenskow 4/3/08

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


We used to be

a perfect match

like two parts

of the same clasp

on a string of imperfect pearls.

Since you left

I feel



and it was so



In anticipation of the fire and the flood--
of the hunger, and the younger ones
who bear his flesh and blood--
he rises, while the moon
is shaking loose her lucent tresses.
He showers. In the leaden
daylight-birthing hours, he dresses.

He mans the stands of saplings,
kissing bark and branch with axes.
He flexes, tenses, reaches, scatters sawdust,
then relaxes.
He chops, and stacks, and packs
and splits the sticks that feed the fires.

He teases, and appeases,
convinces and conspires
with the snakes and snails and spices
and the sugars that he sires.

If it seems he tackles far more
than the job description calls for,
he also misses, kisses, listens to
the girl he daily falls for.

The care and keeping of a household,
husbanded and grounded,
is mastered by the master
of the castle.

I'm astounded!

swestenskow for her husband on the night of his trial by liars

*hus-ban-dree:Funtion: noun, Date: 14th Century (archaic): the care of a household

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Kiss

The Kiss

How could I have known
this every-morning kiss goodbye
would be our last...
An ordinary moment
much too soon became our past...
I don’t know what to do...
These unfamiliar duties
so grievous and so new...
Then I feel the whisper
of your spirit brush my brow
and angel kiss that comforts me
for now...

The Giver

She gives like the river,
all of herself,
her moisture, her minerals
her earthy wealth
asking nothing in return
because she’s learned
there’s rain in due season,
drought for a reason,
a little rain, a little sun,
and plenty of room for a river to run...
She offers her arms from east to west
north to south, and all the rest--
fingers healing thirsty flowers,
rivulets that wind for hours,
nursing both the new and aging,
some of her at peace
some raging,
unaware how vast her reach,
how essential she to each.
She supplies the Maker of the Rain
to drink her up to rain again.
She offers all
is filled again
by her sacrifice to make the rain.
She nurses mosses, suckles soil
anoints the parched and dry like oil.
She nurtures grazers, grasses, trees.
She trickles to those,
she thunders to these...
She’s been to the Living Water’s source.
She’s felt Its ebb, Its pull, Its force.
Of course, she knows its endless supply
she carries from sky to earth to sky.
In flood and drought
she does not doubt,
She flows on prayers.
Everything she has
she shares.

Legacy (For Sonja Lee Memmott Bronson)

It’s yesterday
and I am again a girl
sofa-sitting as you sew
and we are watching rain
through the picture window pane...
...watching little boys
Sting-Ray surfing down streaming streets
spitting and spraying yet staying upright
puddling in flooded gutters drenched with joy
each little boy
dripping and sliding and riding and wet
and yet...
still we stand,
your arm around my shoulders
while you say
"I really love a rainy day"
I smile
In a while,
I am grown again
knowing why I stand here
smiling, loving rain
through a picture window pane.

Learning to Walk in Ruby Slippers

I’ve traveled so far
twixt soil and star
tripping on yellow bricks,
kicking against the pricks,
tip-toe tapping,
night patrolling,
mapless exploring
deftly ignoring
the inner voices
whispering warnings
of chances, of choices...
of Kansas farms...
and open arms
of Auntie Em, of Henry and Toto...
all of them calling
the way they’re supposed to
hoping I’ll march on
through the fear...
hoping I’ll listen
and finally hear:
"You’ve always had
the power
within you,
my dear!"