Sunday, March 30, 2014


A story for you. 
Wooden Woman will tell it.

Was she three? Certainly no more than four years old, 
the gangly little Kenyan girl balanced a baby on her back, 
the younger leaned in tight. Dusty legs and faces, 
each had an empty blue water bottle in hand. 

They negotiated the dry and rutted road 
in the unhurried and straight-backed way 
of Kenyan women. 
We, a van full of Americans, 
loud exuberance 
and rampant energy notwithstanding, 
were playfully joining arms and photographing each other 
in celebration of fact that there was still water in the pond. 

The pond had been excavated 
to last longer through the dry season. 
Cows appeared and frolicked toward the muddy water 
where they then waded in.  

The girls had come to fill their water bottles. 

The fresh water from a well 
was more than a mile away--too far for them. 

And what do you do with that? 

You open the van and give the older girl a new bottle 
filled with fresh clean water. She, of course, opens it 
and tries to give her sister the first drink. 
It is hard because she is small 
and the baby gets water spilled down her legs 
but nothing to drink. 

Kathy takes the bottle, explaining she will help 
and then give it back.

How do I describe the way the baby 
held that first sip in her mouth? 

She looked to be tasting water for the first time. 

Carefully swallowed, she sips again and holds it, 
one big drip gently falling from her sweet lips. 

We hand the older sister a bottle all her own. 

And those two sisters are indelibly with you 
as you load back into the van and as they 
meander down toward the cows and muddy water. 
They are with you on the airplane 
and as you try to tell people what Kenya is like. 

They are there with you every time 
you open a bottle of water. 
You cannot help but try and hold 
the first sip the way that baby did. 

And here months later you wonder 
if waterborne illness has taken one of them yet. 

Or both.

You promise yourself 
that was the single best thing 
you ever did for another human being. 


Wednesday, March 26, 2014


Move your mouth as if to voice a long A.
Imagine  A  outline.

One in 500 sees a color as they do this,
an image projected almost outside the body.

Not limited to letters and numbers,
Rimsky-Korsakov saw the key of C 
as white;
Scriabin, heard it red.

It’s called Synesthesia.
Feel sound. Hear color. Taste shapes.

Tuesdays are teal blue
and Mondays dirt brown.

The howl of your dog
makes your upper arm itch.

The word comes from two Greek words meaning
joined perception.

A siren speeds by and there it is again,
the taste of raspberries.

Wooden Woman thinks you are saying the alphabet
to see what letter tastes like chocolate.

Synesthesia is involuntary and automatic.

Try this: root around in your basement or garage,
find 3 large buckets.
Fill one with HOT water.
One with ice water.
The third fill with lukewarm.

Line them up—hot and cold on the outside.
Submerge the left arm all the way into the left bucket.
Right arm all the way in the right.

One warms. One cools.

Does the brain race between the two
or ride the wave?

Wooden Woman wonders: can the brain
do two things at once
or must the two 
become one 

Plunge both arms into the middle bucket.

The magenta roll of timpani
and gamboge lilt of piccolo
like a sunset.

Wooden Woman wonders
what color Faith is.

Do Works have color or sound or taste to God?

Abraham was told to sacrifice his son.
As he deliberately trudged up the hill
to that appointed place with Isaac,

was he filled with the alum taste of doubt,
did he hear the static drone of fear?

What color is perfect obedience?

What crawled through his skin
just before God’s Crimson Voice cried,


Love and obedience.
  Both hands
held in different water.

Turn a P into an R
by adding a single line

and watch that line
that purple letter
flaming yellow.

Wooden Woman just heard
someone sigh  
and whisper,
At least
I have Faith...

...not everyone has synesthesia, you know.

Wooden Woman wonders
about that bucket
in the middle
how it extinguishes the noise,
the flash of color,
the stunning demonstration
of power in each bucket.

Blue is never bluer 
than up against orange.

Wooden Woman thinks salvation
pure synesthesia

where the realization
of being completely flawed and bent around self
becomes an extended vibrato of forgiveness,
the song of heaven,
a tremendous symphony
wherein the single strike of a triangle
goes supernovae,
the starburst of praise and gratitude 

far beyond
the outstretched arms of a shout,

yet implicitly residing
like a rare scent,
it hovers near the bowed head,
and silent spine,

 and curls at last
against a bended knee.


For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:12)


Monday, March 10, 2014


In grad school a writing professor asked each person
 in Wooden Woman’s class why they wanted to write. 
Turns out, this was a quiz,
and included a write and wrong answer.

The write answer: I enjoy playing with words.
The wrong answer: I want to say something 
(i.e. communicate).

Wooden Woman said SNORT.

And yet, it is true.
Love of words, the play of word meaning,
one will not become a writer of distinction without it.

Wooden Woman has been thinking about her Favorite Word.
She bets you are wondering 
what is your favorite. 

No, it's not a quiz.
Yet one condition:
For a word to be favorite
 it has to be true,
favored in all conditions.

Math people say it like this: 
Let epsilon be greater than zero.

Let epsilon be greater than zero
is a cue
that what follows will be proven true,

once and for all, beyond any doubt whatsoever.

Words have power like that.

The math sentence is not Wooden Woman’s Favorite Word.
But her word does something like epsilon.

and Delight, 
all invoke this word.

It is as insignificant and complex 
as a zero.

The Favorite Word is the essence of understanding,
the bones of optimism;
the word embeds itself in laughter 
and black sorrow.

It goes like this:
A woman has decided that prayer
is not a list.

Prayer is not a visit 
to the Ask Me counter.
Nor standing 
at an Order Desk.

Sitting on the ground of her mind,
to be alone in the presence of Almighty,
she closes the door to rushing thoughts.

Shhhh, in the quiet 
she chooses words from a basket 
called Giving Honor. 

The woman sifts through the letters
and easily finds the I.







The words line up in front of her.  

So she does. Literally.
Not because it is her first inclination for honor giving,
she does so because it is 

an act of honor.

What does one say to God in a position like this?

Wooden Woman thinks you might try it.

God speaks to men audibly so seldom.

This woman did not hear an audible voice.
What she heard was a kind of knowing.

Head to the floor, 
everything and nothing before Him,

she understood her Father to answer her words with:



That’s all.
That’s it.



We make men without chests
 and expect from them virtue and enterprise. 
We laugh at honor 
and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.” 
–CS Lewis