The Holy Dove Was Moving, Too



You, boy, listen.  You open doors,

it isn’t coming from there, no, not

from there, either, it isn’t on the stairs

on in the wallpaper, it’s not in your

father’s chair.  You check the beebox,

but it is humming, a honeycreeper,

it isn’t their thrumming he hears.  You go so far

as to ask the crowkeeper if you may stand

near the great carceral.  And there is sound

there, but it is more like a vesper,

and what you seeks is a whimper.

No, that’s the wrong word.  You are

searching for the source of the whisper.



You pray without ceasing, in time

with your cardinal heart beating.  Your

brothers are rioting, your mother is sleeping,

you have no scriptorium, no cell, you would

hide behind the altar curtain, crawl

into the reliquary, anything for some

privacy.  In families, chaos is a human

right, and you are just

a mendicant who dreams you

are the silent anchorite.  Silly, really,

the arc light of God that shines

meadow bright in your head, day and night.

You come from a family of thinkers, after all

of cynics and empiricists and drinkers.



For years after the catechumen, the baptism,

the chrism, your time as a postulate, your ordination,

you lie face down on the stone floor, you’ve found

your vocation.  Poverty, chastity, obedience, the daily

unchanging, arising in darkness, asceticism, renunciation,

this is your sacred calling.  The ringing bell, the Prime,

the Terce, the Angelus, the Sext.  You find plaintive

joy in the Vespers, a deep ecstatic lamenting, Matins

of the Dead, and you read, you light the lamps, take

your meager meals.  You hold true to the Office of the

Lady, but have given your soul to the Libera

me:  requiem, requiescat, mercy, mercy, viaticum.



You pace the grounds even in winter, channeling

a path near the stone wall.  Not all, certainly not all

of it is troubling you, but you are troubled, it isn’t

like you, you are the silent jubilant, peace-filled

supplicant, ecce homo.  When did you become

a fossarian, the clergyman moonlighting as a

gravedigger?  Why do you carry the hearsecloth,

why do you go down each night into the undercroft

and press your face into your black cloth cassock,

as if it were embroidered in flames and marked

your condemnation?  This is not an Inquisition.

And yet nightly you go down, and you lean against

the vaults, and you do not move.  You do not

move.  You hear the dark train pull into the

transubstantiation, and you still believe in

everything you swore.  Nonetheless, you reach

up blindly and pull the misericord.



Who are your dead?  Not your family,

they are shadows to you now, although

you recall both hilarity and tragedy, and

you are bound to them.  Not your faith,

or your love of the magnificat, the mysterium

tremendum – you are still unhinged with awe,

ubiquitarian:  for you, Divinity is everywhere.

How did it happen, and when?  Was it

that moment last spring, the sky so fair,

when you stood before the cherry tree

and watched the pink blossoms let go

and sail free?  Was it the moment the tree

became not nature but Thou, fully actual

and real?  And the spirit entered you:

verticality, the horizontal wall that spared

you profanity, the slight hill that held

the tree, and the light – if you could just

keep it, freeze it somehow.  Now do you know?

It wasn’t your heart that betrayed you,

it was beauty, that sky, your eyes.



Your dead are attending a dance

at the home of the Misses Morkan,

a waltz is played, concluded, Gabriel

is preoccupied with a speech he will give

at the table.  He remembers something

he wrote in a review, One feels that one

is listening to thought-tormented music.

Old friends talk, as they do, and debate

whether Caruso was the greatest tenor,

and a goose is carved and dinner is served,

and you remember reading the story

the first time, how long it took you

to realize what was happening, how grief

unwraps itself in our most lovely distractions.

The whole of the story, the history

of a loving marriage is contained in a single

image, a woman standing half in shadow

on a staircase, listening to a man singing.

Your dead are everyone who waltzed that evening,

and Michael Furey, the delicate boy

with the clear boy’s voice, and his eyes,

and his illness, and how he died for love.

And Gabriel, standing at the window knowing

finally, that the snow is general all over Ireland.

Requiem, requiescat, Joyce, viaticum.



You have gone astray, and not in any usual way

but by falling in love with fencerows and daylight,

lines underscoring Being itself, and images cause you

to remember yourself:  how it all used to be the same,

the novels of Faulkner were no different than the tale

told by a swirl of starlings rising from a tree,

your passion for photography, a boy who searched

for the taproot of reality.  It was the world

whispering to you on that day; not the still,

small voice we haven’t heard and never will.

You are drunk now on beauty; art is your whiskey,

your moveable feast, and you will ride away,

you will find the way, Whiskey Priest,

to trade your shroud for sublimity.

The power and the glory are not your measure.

Your genius and your luck intertwine:

All you have to do is wake up, and open your eyes,

and there is the divine, your sacrament, your treasure.

Published in: on October 25, 2008 at 1:30 am  Comments (69)  


  1. When I said I wanted to read it again this isn’t exactly what I meant, but thank you!

  2. Ok, what I said previously. The first reaction to poetry is emotional and not intellectual. I love this…it’s for someone who matters…I love the sense of history. And I want to read it again.

  3. I read it again. I like it more.

  4. I can only react emotionally right now (I am NOT ovulating)…sections ii and v? How do you DO that? Maybe I should go to bed, think about this, mull it over, and still wake up inarticulate.

  5. “You have gone astray, and not in any usual way”

    For some reason that line touches me most. That and the one that references the “still small voice”. The one this poem denies; but surely Haven, you must hear it every day.

    Isn’t art a collusion between the Human and the Divine?

  6. Are you sure you didn’t write this poem for me?

  7. Oh my God. I am drinking stars!

  8. Haven,

    I know this boy. Your poem is a beautiful painting, a haunting melody.

    I love the fourth stanza, where he presses his face into the black cassock embroidered in flames. The humor in that verse is so subtle and organic to what you’re telling.

    And I love these:

    “You have gone astray, and not in any usual way
    but by falling in love with fencerows and daylight,” and
    “It wasn’t your heart that betrayed you,
    it was beauty, that sky, your eyes.”

    This is very telling: “you remember reading the story
    the first time, how long it took you
    to realize what was happening”
    Damn, Cowardly Lion, ain’t it the truth a-GAIN.

    I hope your boy found his salvation:
    “Your genius and your luck intertwine:
    All you have to do is wake up, and open your eyes”

    This is writing I can read again and again, and savor. It’s lovely and true. It illuminates me to read it. I’m very happy you posted it here, Ms. K.

  9. On second thought,

    “Your genius and your luck intertwine:
    All you have to do is wake up, and open your eyes”

    he wore an eyepatch his entire life, didn’t he, and he weren’t no pirate, poppet. What does THAT tell us, Freud? Maybe Cassie from IODINE could address this one …

  10. I think all I’ll say is – Thank you.

  11. Thank you all so much. Jodi, I love those plays on words, too. John actually laughed out loud at the train pulling in to the transubstantiation. One never knows what one can get by with. But you know, what does anyone have to lose?

    Again, you are all immensely gracious.

  12. What a lovely thing to awaken to. I also enjoyed the train pulling in to the transubstantiation.

  13. Haven I like your poem. I don’t know why. I don’t quiet understand it, I’ll have to read it some more. It kinda reminds of John Keats. My favorite Keats poem is ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’. The last two line are my absolute favorite,

    “‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty,’- that is all Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”

  14. I am that boy.

  15. Good for you, George.

  16. Gorgeous, perfect blend of quirky and depth psychology and all the things I love.

    My favorite is the iv – the holiness found in nature, as that is where I, too, feel closest to divine/god/being.

    I was dying to hear the beat of Kate Bush’s Dreamtime in the background as I read it . . . also could hear her whispering “with Gabriel behind me, and Michael before me . . .”

    Thank you Haven. That was a generous gift to share.

  17. Ethereal, lush, gorgeous. Thank you for posting it, Haven.

  18. “How did it happen, and when? Was it
    that moment last spring, the sky so fair,
    when you stood before the cherry tree
    and watched the pink blossoms let go
    and sail free? Was it the moment the tree
    became not nature but Thou, fully actual
    and real?”

    When I read this it felt so familiar. I had to stop and wonder if I had experienced this myself??

    Just lovely.

  19. Wrenching, Haven. I’m sure whoever this is would be greatly touched by it, like falling in love, like feeling that first cold gust of Fall, something as large to make them question if they have led another life or may lead another yet. Even if they only understood but half of it, that’d would be enough to see…and we only ever understand half ourselves anyway I imagine.

    Thank you very very much.

  20. Just cathcing up with all theses posts….

    JODI: I am still reeling from what you wrote about somebody’s mother.

    LINDA: I am still reeling from what you wrote about somebody’s mother.

    HAVEN: I have been reading your poem all day — stealing in for a glimpse, like a boy taking fig Newtons all day long, one at time, till it’s all gone. What’s wrong with yours? It’s just as full every time I stick my hand in.

  21. George, I have a bottomless Fig Newton jar! My mom got it as a bonus offer when she traded for me with the preaching wolves.

    Thank you all for your kind comments.

  22. I love Dubliners. I love this poem. I am so glad you posted it. It’s truly beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

  23. it’s dizzying and complex and i like this. there are a dozen or so words i don’t know but that wont stop me from liking it.

    is it for david foster wallace? it could be. is it for your brother?

    is it for your father?

    i feel as though i want more clues. i want to know more.

    this does nor require a response. it’s a desire. i think poems generate longing and desire. yours do.

  24. I just read this again but out loud this time. It makes me feel melancholy, but also happy. I feel as though this man actually did well getting away from his family of origin and that his family now is the world. And he knows this because there is so much beauty around us every single minute. How can he not pray for it, walk through it, almost fade away into it?

  25. Where is everyone tonight?

  26. Trying to get to bed, but had a really bad two days family-wise…so checked the blog and there was this AMAZING lovely poem…and “in families chaos is a human right” OMG so appropriate!!; but what hit me most and with an immediate strong mental image and TEARS was the line about falling in love with fencerows and daylight…Thank you, thank you, Haven…I see my North Dakota childhood. Fencerows and Daylight. Thomas Hart Benton. I see a picture in my head. Thank you so much.

  27. Well now that everyone but me is asleep. God rest your beautiful souls. Linda, I have to read things aloud sometimes slowly in order to understand them when reading them is too confusing. Haven, that is one of the most beautiful poems ever put to words. George, I was that boy also, I think. (Now I am a girl.) For once I get to be in the front of the line with a comment. I think I can sleep now. At least until 9:30. I love you all. Dorian

  28. Dorian, i love you. i’ll be calling in a few hours. its 6 35 am in california and i think calling you now would be thoughtless.


    HAVEN? you are a great poet. not a good one, not a fine one. a great one. do not despair at the awful drain it creates,or the poetry-existential questioning – ie WHY SHOULD I BE WRITING POETRY IF IM NOT YEATS? that’s bullshit: we already HAVE a John Donne and a YEATS. do not despair of the inner flummoxing it requires to perfect each line — as you do. your poetry is breathtaking, important, great. Yes. Great. and i know. i was taght by the Greats. i didn’t catch the talent-disease of the Greats;i am only Good. but you are Great. now go forth and beat some white ass.

  29. well, it’s very cruel, but people? you simply cannot pluck the great lines from a kimmel poem. there are too many, you end up transcribing the poem in its entirety.

    still, it pleases poets to know which lines people are given strength/inspiration by…so do continue to laud individual lines…xo sfc

  30. haven and i were just emailing, and i was telling her how she gives me courage and inspiration and joy all in massive infusions. it’s a very long story, the way which she does this for me personally? but she does it for so many. i bow to her.

    and so, i’m afraid i am moved to self expression, people. i am so sorry, expect the mediocre. because this morning, i’m going to transcribe about five of my poems and post them to my blog. oh the HUMANITY. click on my name above and go to the FINNABLOG if you want to see the damage….;) xoxoxo sfc

  31. You are always immensely kind, but especially so now.

    You’ve made me very happy, thank you.

  32. Suzanne- your writing is fabulous and I know when I read your poems I will love them. How could I not since they come from you?

  33. Suzanne: I know exactly what you mean. I’m going to embarrass myself now. Call it a fan letter, love letter, or even just a mash note. But I need to tell my side of a story here.

    The simple truth is that I’ve known Haven for, well, my entire waking life. She has said some very kind and generous things about me and what I’ve done for her. I would be remiss in not acknowledging publicly what I’ve received in return.

    When I say waking life, I mean that the first twenty years of my life were so withdrawn and introverted that it was almost as if I were in a walking coma. She’s been a teacher, an inspiration, a friend and my family when I’ve needed her. She opened my eyes and mind to worlds I never dreamed were possible let alone existed. She encourages, and just by her example, gives me a beacon to illuminate my way through this world.

    She’s talked about how I helped her with Kat while she worked a night job and that I never asked for anything in return. I never had to. Instinctively, she somehow knows what my heart, my soul is in desperate need of and has provided that needed sustenance through words, listening, or with just her presence.

    And during that time of need for her, I was also going through a dark time. She was and is a true friend whom I could always, ALWAYS, count on. Never judgmental, never wavering, never failing. If Haven hadn’t been there through those dark times, I seriously don’t know what would have come of me. At the very least, I wouldn’t have the joy in my life that I do today. I don’t even want to imagine what the worst would have been. I’m sure it would have been seen through an alcoholic or pharmacological haze.

    So, yes Suzanne, I understand how “she gives me courage and inspiration and joy all in massive infusions” as she has done the same for me. And Haven, my apologies for this, as I know what a humble creature you are, but it had to be said.

  34. Oh, and she’s not above giving me a good swift kick in the pants when I’ve needed it. Such as my blog post about being reduced to a stereotype at work. All in love of course. 😀

  35. I’m sorry, Sock Monkey, have we met? You sound delightful.

  36. Dorian, what a very gracious and dear thing to say. Thank you.

  37. Good Morning y’all…
    Oh JimShue, what a wonderful tribute, made especially touching for me since I first visited your blog on Friday and read about your ‘day of clarity’ and it was so very positive and warmed me right up. You lucky guy, to have personally met Haven…I am happy just to see pictures (which I love by the way)….I must say that I think Augusten has a second career as a portrait photographer if he ever needs one, too.
    Have a peaceful Sunday….the sun is shining hard and warm in Arizona and the dogs and I will sit on the patio and enjoy the quiet….I just got ‘The Used World’ to read in the mail yesterday, so I am happy.

  38. P.S….found a multi-colored sock monkey at a garage sale yesterday, so of course it came home with me…

  39. You know us sock monkeys, always delightful.

  40. I feel like I should be reading this in a very important English class, maybe in a “Great Poets” anthology, and be marveling over, dissecting, and practically memorizing every line. But the fact is, I’ve learned more on this blog than I ever have in a classroom. I swear, just when I think you’ve blown me away as much as is humanly possible… Whew. Thank you for that, Haven. Keep ’em coming.

  41. Oh, and thank you Brenda. Glad you could visit my place. I hope the multi-colored sock monkey behaves himself and keeps you good company.

  42. So I remember reading an interview somewhere where Haven mentioned that she thought she wasn’t a good enough poet to be comfortable putting her work into the same world as the work of John Donne and Rilke, but I think I have to adamantly disagree.

    This made the hair on my neck stand up at least four times.

  43. My special Sock Monkey is not just delightful, he is PERTY.

  44. Ahrr! And today, he be a pirate.

  45. NOTICE: Hey, could you all help me get the word out that we’ll be discussing THE USED WORLD in about four days? Also, and this is the important part, I have a stack of comped paperbacks and I would be happy to send one to anyone who can’t afford to buy one or isn’t near a library. Just send me your address and I’ll get in the mail right away. Maybe this should be posted on the BlogBabies website, too? I know many of you communicate with each other, so could you start a daisy chain, like on snow days? Thank you.

    In the remaining four days I might post poems. Because you have made me feel as if I might not have been brain damaged after all.

  46. Wahoo! the Used World….Ahm a’readin it now! The sock monk too, I’ll take a picture.

  47. Yikes. I need to get reading. I just started Used World.

    My son and I stopped in the CVS drugstore up on the corner the other morning to get a splint for his finger (long story, this boy is forever hurting himself in the funniest ways) and at the end of one aisle was a display of sock monkeys. Ha! In the traditional color and also in bright blue and purple. A few months ago I would have walked right by and never given it a second thought. But not now. Smile.

  48. okay, the sock monk is reading at havenblogbabies on Love all those photos of everybody.

  49. Though her words take us to places we have already been — or never shall — it’s who she is that drew us here and keeps us here with a spirit that that shouts out: I counting coup on you, boy, and you, too grrrrrl.

  50. Linda, I could hardly put The Used World down. I got so involved I didn’t want it to end.

    Weird day of doing not much of nothing here. I haven’t even bothered to get dressed – Jammie day! I’ve been listening to Shelby sing The Little Shop of Horrors all day long. Gracie is driving me batty – she wants to go outside when there’s a thunderstorm storm, with intermitting hail, happening. She is bored so she keeps stealing things and making us chase her around. It’s pretty entertaining actually.

    Shelby keeps singing that song over and over and over because there having auditions for the school play tomorrow. I’m so amazed she actually has the guts to try out. It’s something I could have never done at her age. I still shake like a maniac whenever I read a poem for Open Mic Night. I compiled some of my poems onto one easy to find page if anyone would like to take a gander. 🙂

  51. It’s her words and worlds that drew us to her, but her large spirit is what keeps us. She counts coup on souls, touching wherever she goes.

  52. The Sock Monkey is reading TUW! My work here is done.

  53. “The whole of the story, the history

    of a loving marriage is contained in a single

    image, a woman standing half in shadow

    on a staircase, listening to a man singing.”

    so perfect HK, the image and power are intense. love captured so beautifully, it brings a tear to my eye.

    i love the song “Feelin’ Good Again” by Robert Earl Keen..
    Standin’ down on Main Street
    Across from Mr, Blues
    In my faded leather jacket
    And my weathered Brogan shoes
    A chill north wind was blowin’
    But the spring was comin’ on
    As I wondered to myself
    Just how long I had been gone

    So I strolled across old Main Street
    Walked down a flight of stairs
    Stepped into the hall
    And saw all my friends were there
    A neon sign was flashin’ “Welcome come on in”
    It feels so good feelin’ good again


    My favorite band was playin’
    An Otis Redding song
    When they sang the chorus
    Everybody sang along
    Dan and Margarita
    were swayin’ side by side
    I heard they were divorcin’
    But I guess they let it slide
    And I wished I had some money with
    which to buy a round

    I wished I’d cashed my paycheck
    Before I came to town
    But I reached into my pocket
    Found three twenties and a ten
    It feels so good feelin’ good again

    There was old man Perkins
    Sittin’ on his stool
    Watchin’ Butch and Jimmy John
    Talkin’ loud and playin’ pool
    The boys from Silver City
    Were standin’ by the fire
    Singin’ like they thought
    they were the Tabernacle choir
    And I wanted you to see them all
    I wished that you were there
    I looked across the room
    and saw you standin’ on the stair
    And when I caught your eye
    I saw you break into a grin
    It feels so good feelin’ good again

    HK your poem reminds me of this song. do you know it? it is one of my all time faves.

  54. Steph, I don’t know this song but my daughter LOVE her some Robert Earl Keen. Thanks for sending this.

  55. I just sent Carrie a message on the BlogBabies page, because Tex made reference to her as a singer and I wanted to know if she has a website or someplace I could buy her albums. Then I was OVERCOME with this extended and extensive fantasy that Carrie is CARRIE NEWCOMER, all of whose albums I own, EVERY ONE, and she is a Quaker and she is a genius, and ‘Holy As A Day Is Spent,’ is one of my favorite songs in the world, and then I realized I am in fact delusional. HOWEVER, since the odds of our Carrie being THE CARRIE are nil minus ten and counting, do go and listen to her, particularly her new album and tell me if I’m not right that she is a slice of heaven sent to heal our brokenness.

  56. Haven here is the link to Carrie song

    [audio src="" /]

  57. How INTERESTING. Carrie isn’t my Carrie Newcomer but she sounds like another of my absolute idols, Astrud Gilberto. WOW. Beautiful, beautiful. Thank you, D.

  58. Oh no! I am so sorry to have gotten your hopes up, only to dash them to the ground! (Although, Astrid Gilberto? I’ll take it.)

  59. “All you have to do is wake up, and open your eyes…”


  60. for once I am at a loss for words.

  61. I have 2 tickets to see Robert Earl Keen at the Ryman in November. Anyone want to go with me?

  62. this poem makes my heart hurt in the best possible way. i am so thankful you shared it with us.

  63. Dorian: When I dare say I’m at a loss for words people around me just laugh and laugh! HA HAHAHAHA! they say. Buncha cretins.

    But thank you, dear.

  64. Yeah, loss of words has never been a problem for you, my sweet. HA HAHAHAHA!

    The Cretin

  65. Linda! i would love to go with you…only i live in CT and have a small son…i hope you have fun, i just love Robert Earl Keen

  66. EVERYONE OF Y’ALL WHO WOULD LIKE A BOOK: send me your full name and address to: RIGHT AWAY. I need to get them out tomorrow or you’ll be reading poetry by me until we all turn into whit leather.


  67. Thank you for this poem and the others you’ve been posting. They’ve been keeping me company during my long insomniac hours. I drifted off the other night after first reading this one and woke up in mid-mental conversation, I was telling someone all about the stages of faith (at least that’s how I’m reading/feeling it right now). Is that way off base?

  68. No, Sandra. Nearly all of my poems are about faith in something.


  69. I guess the stages of faith was a poor way to phrase it. I was wondering if you were speaking to the inborn sense of the numinous that I think we’re all endowed with (that’s probably not the right word either). That childlike wonder and contentment at the beauty around us, the sense that something is happening that is just right there if we only had arms long enough to reach it. Then as childhood wonder fades, and life does its work upon our capacity for faith in others or ourselves, let alone faith in something that is good, enduring, and true. But the need still exists. People choose all sorts of ways to fill that need. This boy chose the structure/comfort of an organized religion. The rituals soothed him, filled that empty place, until they no longer did. He was left performing rituals he no longer believed in because he had forgotten why he had sought them ought in the first place. So then comes the reawakening, the desire to revisit the initial impulse toward the numinous, the heightened sense of the sublime and the willingness to not know but appreciate.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: