In a poetry workshop years ago I was taught to test a poem with three questions: Is it true? Is it beautiful? Does it lead the reader to her own experience? I suggest that these same questions lie within the question: Is this a poem that promotes peace? When a poem reaches into the complexity and wonder of human existence, we are invited to move beyond prejudice and opinion, and sense our commonality. When the poem finds shape and music, we enter a beauty which draws us toward harmony in ourselves and with others. Because the mystery of the Transcendent is a truth we carry in our bodies, we seek language for holiness and grace which offers peace with the other and the Other.

Summer fan shivers the rosary
which hangs in my study, here
where nothing stirs on its own
in midsummer's curl of parched leaf.

"The sun doesn't go down. We do,"
writes Amichai, tilting toward
his own descent. Whir of fan
since childhood, and I want to touch

my toes to cool linoleum, or mud
by the garden pump as I pry
at the locks of baked earth,
seeking the thirsty dark.

One word at a time for the unknowable,
like the beads which I never learned
to touch in prayer, which the air
fingers for me as the sun

does not set, but I do, willing
to receive the grace of moonlight
in my slow slide toward
whatever stirs for language.


Chirp of crickets, silent glide
of the owl. Daytime scorch
dissipates now into shadow,
allowing sight, my small study

releasing me into the night.
The grass breathes and cools,
as I lie down on its soft blades,
face-up, as in rehearsal.

What words before my final
silence? What utterance for
the great arc from my grave
to the rosary of constellations overhead?

Heaven and the highest heaven
cannot contain thee,
how much less our earth
in its burning and greening,
and this house, my body,
which you have made.

About the Author

Jean Janzen

Jean Janzen is a poet who also writes essays, and occasionally, song lyrics. She has taught at Fresno Pacific University and Eastern Mennonite University, and lives in Fresno, California. Her seventh book of poems, What the Body Knows, Cascadia Publishing, will be released in spring of 2015.