The Ladder: A Compilation

This spring, as I read, I recorded the phrases and sentences that stood out to me. Out of curiosity, I arranged them into one poem, just to see what would emerge. It certainly doesn’t have a perfect train of thought, but I still like it. To me, it tells a story of falling apart and rebuilding.

I did change a few pronouns and tenses to make things connect in a somewhat smooth manner.


As often happens when things don’t go one’s way,

I have decided to heap up a pile of grievances

And suffer them all at once.[i]

People can get hooked on longing.

They wind up liking the wanting

More than the having. [ii]

You see,

It isn’t that I have given up on God (no, no),

Or that I think God has given up on me (no…),

It is more I am aware of some large and fundamental ignorance

Deep within me,

A bafflement that lives, not uncomfortably,

With whatever else I might be feeling,

And I accept this. [iii]

{Just because I write it,

Doesn’t mean it has really happened.}[iv]

It’s the line between

‘There is nothing good in this place for you anymore,

You should walk away,’

And the line that tells me to redefine the place and

Grow memories there again. [v]

When faced with a difficult question,

We often answer an easier one instead,

Usually without noticing the substitution. [vi]

When you rewrite,

Your main job is taking out

All the things that are not the story. [vii]

The only dependable things are

Humility and looking. [viii]

Every right action begets another;

Every extension of a hand forms a rope

And then

A ladder. [ix]

I think I might want to come home now,

Having been homesick most of my life. [x]

Yes, I know,

God’s silence never breaks,

But is that really a problem? [xi]


[i] Very Rich, Polly Horvath

[ii] Happiness for Beginners, Katherine Center

[iii] Amy and Isabelle, Elizabeth Strout

[iv] Peace like a River, Leif Enger

[v] That Sounds Fun, Annie F. Downs

[vi] Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman

[vii] On Writing, Stephen King

[viii] The Overstory, Richard Powers

[ix] The Dearly Beloved, Cara Wall

[x] Hannah Coulter, Wendell Berry

[xi] “Whistling Swans”, Mary Oliver

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