Friday, August 12, 2011



The children find me here on the rock—
four girls and one boy, they climb up,
and spread out their towels to sunbathe.
Jenny, April, Autumn, Holly, and Sean.
April says everyone else has gone to chapel.
I tell them Indians used to sit here…
that this is a sacred place.

O Great Rock, balanced here
between setting moon and rising sun,
tell me your name!

I am Grandfather Rock,
grandfather to modern poets too,
young bards who come to dream their dream
in the woods…you hear that jazzbird?
He’s tapping out the base pattern.
jazzbeat on wood
bird chorus swells up
bless you my children
I bequeath you my stone savings
base pattern bones earth bones
marrow of the mother Mother Marrow Mother Mary
Great Goddess come dance on the bones of our good mother
O mother love how can we dance on your bones?
Make us know that we are free
in the trees in the greening

Youngbird flutters joyous wings to waning moon
achieves air and sails into birdsong
turns on homing wind and calls, Jazzbird!
finds his throat liquid warbling riverhood
manheart splits through throatcry, Prometheus!
You old fire lover man lover,
earth water fire earth water fire,
you brought air too, didn’t you

Wind blow gently on liquid heartfire,
Motherbones dance to the base pattern,
Jazzbird, God, blow gently on heartfire.

The children have left, having found and taken
what they needed from this place
quickly and surely as children do.
I am alone on the rock in the trees
in the blue circle of Time,
Grandfather Rock, Open Sky,
Golden Sun, Silver Moon, Myriad Birdcall.
I bow. I offer thanks, and promise to come here again.
--Barbara Smith Stoff

Friday, July 15, 2011



In this classroom.
I wish to compete!
I wish to compete
with what is going on
out there!
Last night…
In color
and in black and white,
you watched
and you listened
as television reassembled
beatings and rapes and…
and murders.

This morning
I want to read to you
a simple story. O Henry,
O! teach us to listen.
Teach us to hear
this small quiet voice.

In this room
there are no guns.
There are no cries
of pain and horror
to snare your attention…
only this small quiet voice
that says, look,
there is this much good
…in one old man…
who is drunk…
most of the time.
(So the teacher said
one last leaf for O Henry)
And I believe…
the students…

--Barbara Smith Stoff

Wednesday, June 22, 2011



At birthing time

one is asked to be a bearer of life—

seeing beyond the shrouds

which cloud clear vision—

carrying seed and symbol

toward and toward…

the birth of the Dayrose

whose power knows

and distills golden fragrance

from mudsludge and dungeon breath—

rendering the pure essence

of all seeing

now then here being

now then here being…

made to live

as long as God lives.

--Barbara Smith Stoff

Sunday, June 5, 2011



Ultimately the voice in the whirlwind says
I am this love
which drips like honey through earthly caverns
…to the high altar…
poetry is the rich conserve—
the talisman for transit
through all comings and goings
moment to moment
aeon to aeon
music from the great organ
always othering to itself
but yet comes home.

--Barbara Smith Stoff

Friday, May 27, 2011


Meister Eckhart

"The eye through which I see God is the same eye through which God sees me; my eye and God's eye are one eye, one seeing, one knowing, one love."


as we are camped out here

on this more often and indeed very darkling plain

Djwhal Khul tell us to be the high witness

we have our electronic campfire

we sit facing the television

we move through the ceremonies of Kennedy funerals

through the ceremonies upon the death of a princess

we bear high witness

we bear high witness to war after war

there is Desert Storm

the Towers fall

oil explodes in oceans

earthquakes come

tornadoes come

and then the fires

Netanyahu speaks to Congress

Obama speaks to Parliament

in 1939, a ten year old boy writes

of the terrible scar of war

and pleads for leaders to sit down together

sit down together and talk things out

work together

this scar is a terrible thing

these wars…

long deceased now,

that ten year old yet watches

still keeps watch for these children

we sit facing the screen

we watch and listen

all the world speaks now

cries out in pictures

the grandson of a Kenyan cook in the British Army

stands before the British Parliament

as President of the United States

and says “It will be years before

these revolutions will reach

their conclusions”…

and says, “We have a say in how this story ends.”

he quotes Churchill: “…wherever the bird of freedom

chirps in the human heart…”

there is the eye that sees

--Barbara Smith Stoff

Thursday, April 21, 2011


Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, is now seen as a good early copy of Bruegel's original.

I see too,
remembering Auden's Icarus,
that when it comes to suffering
they are seldom wrong
these reporters and their cameras,
the way they catch tragedy on the human face,
and yet sometimes they fix for us
in their instants and afterimages
...something achingly beautiful, incandescent...
so human, so human rising up.

Take this picture of Redgrave for example.
I have kept it here on my desk,
for weeks now, have studied her expression...
hand gesturing for some ideal, tender,
perhaps clear only to her.
I have met those eyes, the lips
pursed to appeal from her side.
I know little of sides and battles,
but I know that face.

--Barbara Smith Stoff

Here is the poem which inspired me and my students:
By W.H. Auden
About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters; how well, they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.
In Breughel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.
Copyright © 1976 by Edward Mendelson, William Meredith and Monroe K. Spears,
Executors of the Estate of W. H. Auden.
Pasted from

Here is another poem...this one from DOORS INTO POETRY, by Chad Walsh (Prentice-Hall, Inc. 1962)...
THE FALL OF ICARUS (From Brueghel's painting)
by Charles F. Madden
The bulging sails by a riotous wind caught
pull the ships and their rigging nets toward shore
to be emptied.  The sailors quickly will calm their floors
and their houses in the evening light will melt into the mountains.
And on the hill with one foot planted in the earth
his plowing almost done; his eyes cast down and fully shielded
from the sun which now is growing shadow, the farmer 
turns in soil and toil the final circles of the day.
Below him a quiet pastoral: on lichen bearing rocks
the feeding sheep, the quiet watching dog, the silent shepherd
so stalking with his eyes the homing flights of birds
that neither he nor the intent fisherman closer to the shore,
none has seen the silent fall of Icarus
through the riotous wind and the shadows of the coming evening light,
nor do they hear his sigh, both of pity and delight
of his remembrd waxed and winged flight.
--Charles F. Madden

Tuesday, April 12, 2011



Dear ‘Elijah Rising’…I was just going to post this poem today, and as I come to the blog, I see your comment…so this is for you...what beautiful synchronicity! I wrote the poem several years ago as my night time reflection after being invited to a large Seder service at a temple. The Haggadah explained the fifth cup and how only the children in the room notice that indeed Elijah has come and sipped the wine. There was a small ‘post script’ which said it’s now okay to drink from that fifth cup during the service. I raised my glass with deliberate thought and real joy.


That fifth cup is Elijah’s cup.
Be reverent
with the shards
that remain
of that perfection
which was childness.
Turn them carefully
against your callouses,
or listen, as with a shell
to the ear, for secrets saved
toward wholeness.
All these years…
kept in the keep of the heart,
the secret stirs, and Elijah
begins again to whisper.
--Barbara Smith Stoff

Monday, April 11, 2011



Through a long winter
my feet have traced a new path
through unpatterned shadows
from ice-laden limbs of bare trees.
Bare trees cannot shelter,
even sparrows,
yet they do offer themselves
as cold crystal prisms,
as pale sun warms the waiting
for some sound of spring. There!
Yellow chalice-faces,
green-stemmed hope,
daffodils breaking through—offering—
--Barbara Smith Stoff

Saturday, February 19, 2011



Having inquired too much

of too many lessons and too many books

now I lay me down on this good earth

to mound the leaves like words--

piles and piles of yarrow words.

Silent and dark, I stir and stir

until the question bows,

until the question stirs.

Where does "I want" arise?

In the mind.

Where does "I need" arise?

In the body.

Where does "I have" arise?

In the heart.

The heart can never be cut down.

The heart can never be used up.

--Barbara Smith Stoff