Learning to Swim in Cursive

Learning to Swim in Cursive
by Julie Sumner

A keyboard with its rapid-fire clicks wields words
with keystrokes as uniform as bullets.

the downstroke of the cursive
capital “J”
requires a push-pull of the ink pen,
a dive through the blue-ruled line
then a flip-turn and arc to surface again.
The pen scoops and curls
as words scrawl across the page–
each idea like a breath held
between pen strokes,
whose rhythm wrenches meaning
and oxygen
from handwriting’s singular shape.

What the Dog Tells Me

This poem is for my friend, Nancy. Our dog confused her iPhone with a chew toy, and for that we are very sorry.

What the Dog Tells Me
by Julie Sumner

The dog is barking again,
Telling me everything she knows–
Telling me my neighbor Nancy
Has the audacity
To roll her garbage can to the curb–
A menacing gesture to be sure.

The dog is barking again,
Telling me everything she knows–
Telling me she was mistaken
That in fact
Nancy is being carried away
By the evil garbage can,
Its dripping mouth agape–
We should do something now
Before it’s too late!

The dog is barking again,
Telling me everything she knows–
Telling me it’s ok after all,
The garbage can is frozen in fear
At the din of such a terrible bark,
Nancy escapes a putrid fate,
And lives to take her garbage out
On another sun-washed day.

Daguerreotype of a Young Man

Daguerreotype of a Young Man
by Julie Sumner

A picture of presence,
A person–all breath
And nerves, eyelashes
And ideas–
Now mapped into
The lines and spaces
Of a silvered image,
Caught fast like a fish
Shining on the hook,
A form of himself,
An absent sort of presence:
The outline of his lips
Is easily traced,
Though his given name
Is past remembering,
But life’s wily vibrance
Still lights
His long-dead face.

What I Notice

What I Notice
by Julie Sumner

What I notice above the whine of deals
Spilling from his gyrating lips
Is that the double-dealing used car salesman
Has perfect double-jointed thumbs.

What I notice beneath the evening din
Of grocery shoppers bound for home
Is the faint echo of a needle-like scar
Beneath the dove tattoo on the cashier’s arm.

What I notice beyond the obvious
I cannot help–
I trained my eyes to look–
But if it’s true what poets say,
That attention’s near enough to love,
May my noticing lead to prayers
That the overlooked things understand
They too are loved.

Book Marks

Book Marks
by Julie Sumner

One Mr. George W. Cobb
signed his name
in looping script–
ruled-line straight–
in respectful pencil
across the inside front cover
of Gilbert K. Chesterton’s
St. Francis of Assisi
and after reading
the life of this saint
who was so enamored
of his Lord’s creatures,
Mr. Cobb–again in pencil–
wrote on the inside back cover
taking his field notes
from St. Francis’s birds.

Author’s Note: For those unfamiliar with the winsome accounts of St. Francis, one of his most notable episodes was his sermon given to a flock of birds.

Dawn Song

Dawn Song
by Julie Sumner

In the awakening
before waking,
when the light
is only
an approaching echo
and the kingbird
begins his whistling
song to greet the dawn,
your thoughts are,
for a moment,
your own–
chirruping and tweeing
through your mind,
unsilenced yet
by broad daylight
with its
stalking expectations.

Prayer for the Week of August 19

Unfathomable God,
Your wisdom to us is nonsense
On most occasions–
We do not have your view
Of infinity,
We do not have your view
Of ourselves as you see us
Through the lens of your Son.
We rejoice that your wisdom
Is to choose those who are
Foolish, weak, and base,
Because that is all of us.
Help us to trust
Your foolish wisdom
In Jesus’ name,