The Reader

This poem pays homage to the fast-disappearing phenomenon of unearthing treasures printed on paper in an otherwise unassuming stack of books…

The Reader

by Julie Sumner

I imagine you wandering
In a silent forest of library books,
Stumbling across
This poem
As your eyes are walking past–
Looking for a detective story,
Or maybe a soufflé recipe,
But you stop here,
Obeying curiosity not duty–
You crack open the page,
Creamy and speckled with words
Like a kestrel’s egg,
The poem warms
Under the incubation
Of your gaze–
You read it
Into life.


Here is a recent poem I wrote about what goes on in your mind when you’re awake at 4 in the morning and everything is quiet but just about to wake up….

by Julie Sumner

Seconds wax into minutes
In night’s waning hours–
Memories crash on breakers
Sharpened by the present moment–
The minuet of time and memory
Now crescendos,
Now diminuendos
Like the moonstruck tide,
An eternal, earthly rhythm
Resonating from forgetfulness
Into muscle-bound memory.

Postcard from Norma Jean

This poem was inspired by a writing prompt instructing me to write a postcard to someone who could not read. I do not know if Marilyn Monroe had an illiterate Aunt Phoebe, but I do wonder if she ever missed who she was when she was just Norma Jean.
Postcard from Norma Jean
by Julie Sumner

Hollywood, California March 3, 1962

Dear Aunt Phoebe,

You probably will say I am a foolish child, for writing you words that you are not able to read….”Wasted paper!” I hear the words scattering out of your laugh-lined mouth like a startled flock of starlings. Some hopeful thread of my heart pulls my hand along the too-small postcard with its sunlit Hollywood sign on front–more inscrutable letters. Maybe I hope you’ll see my familiar curving script, and recognize some stalwart,
undiminished piece of home still nesting within the shapes of the words themselves.

Love Always,

Norma Jean

Woman’s Work

Woman’s Work by Julie Sumner

I wake to words the way some women wake to colicky babies and bleary-eyed 5-year-olds. You have to get them off on the right foot, or the rest of the day’s shot. If you don’t take care, the words will run rampaging through your mind all day, spilling milk all over the furniture of your morals, leaving dirty underwear scattered over the complicated oriental rug of your self-concept, and not flushing the toilet after they do number two to your sanity. I tell you, they’ll flat wreck the orderly household of your mind in one sitting, so you’ve got to whip them into shape first thing! And so — morning after morning I begin by scrubbing the words down, lines on the legal pad like the pine planks of the dining room floor, words shining as they are polished like woodgrain in the morning sun, and I gather up what’s left over of them and put them in the kitchen junk drawer, or maybe a second stanza.


Leftovers by Julie Sumner
John 6: 12-13 KJV When they were filled, he said to his disciples, “Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.” Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that were eaten.

My husband and I eat leftovers…a lot of leftovers since there are just the two of us, and they are always a little lackluster. We are grateful for them, but there none of the anticipation of the first time you taste a meal. Maybe that is what caught my attention about this verse– leftovers are apparently very important to Jesus. He has just fed at least 5,000 people from a few barley loaves and fishes, an amazing miracle that testifies to his power as the Son of God and his compassion for his people. That feat alone should be enough I would think, but Jesus is not done with the disciples or with us in this instance. He commands them to gather the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost… some translations say ‘that nothing is wasted’. I love this idea that nothing gets left behind in Jesus’ eyes. He can use whatever is left. When I think about all of the fragmented things in my life, this gives me great hope. Relationships I have left untended, jobs I have left half-done…all are still potential sources of redemption and wonder in Jesus’ hands–if only I will stop and gather them up.

I wonder what the disciples thought at this point. Surely their heads were still spinning from all of the bread that seemed to come from nowhere, and now they were to gather up the scraps. Twelve baskets were collected in all: one for each of the disciples. It must have taken them a long time, methodically bending and stooping to pick up the half-eaten loaves. It was a certain anti-climax after the miraculous dinner–picking up the scraps. This reminds me too, that Jesus often calls us to the mundane work of living in a community and loving our neighbors as ourselves. These things often entail the very simplest tasks: listening to people, taking them food when they are sick, praying with people, nothing terribly glamorous or miraculous. Yet, even out of the mundane Jesus demonstrates his abundance in provision.Did the disciples realize when they finally had completed the task, that another miracle had occurred? Do we ever stop to think about how Jesus might be using even the most mundane aspects of our lives to work out his love for us and for those around us?