I Am Not Tall

I am not tall
But my legs work fine
They are long enough
My feet are well grounded.
I am not pretty
But don’t tell the man who’s loved me
For more than thirty-three years.
I am not clever
But I’m no fool
When I don’t understand
I know who to trust.
I’m no gourmet chef
But dinner is on the table
At the appointed time.
I am not smart
But I am curious
I question and read
I know House Finches eat oranges
And recently discovered
That a flibbertigibbet
Is a flighty, excessive talker
A flibbertigibbet, I am not.
I’m not an intellectual
Do not ask me to do math
But I know about Plato’s Cave
And Pascal’s Wager
And I am certainly all in
On the existence of God.
I am not rich
But I’ve stargazed in Zion
Skated on frozen canals
And gathered seashells at sunset
Along the shore of the North Sea.
I am not famous
But my friends and family know me
I can pick up my own groceries
Without causing a stir.
I’m not elegant
I can bait my own hook
And spit.
I am no leader
But I can serve
Or follow.

I wish I could say I’m never anxious.
I wish I could say I don’t worry.
I wish I could say I’m always kind.

I am not brave
But I know how to pray.
I’m no angel
I am a child of God.
I am not young
But I can walk forever
Unless through deep sand
In the heat of the day.
I am not tall.

Poem for a Crow

By Terrie van Baarsel

Beyond my lace curtain
A crow in the birdbath
He is not exactly what I had in mind
And the sky is just crazy with crows
(Where are the sparrows, the finches, the doves?)
He struts
Arrogant in black
Until I open the door
And then
A reluctant flyer, he.

The crow brings bird carcasses
And bean burritos
Yes, bean burritos!
And leaves them to soaking
Until they are fat with water
Plump offerings and ample
For his eager mate in waiting
Oh, how charming
(Is it quite illegal to shoot a crow?)

Better yet so
Shall I then appreciate him?
Loan him a name and
In his honor compose
A poem of crow appreciation?

All hail!
I crown thee Copernicus
King of all Crows
Sleek of feather
Beady of eye, art thou
An ode to thy prowess
Thy intelligence
Thy form
O, rarest of scavengers!

Dearest Copernicus
Purest of pilferers, pillagers, plunderers, thieves!
No call to repentance for thee, dear bird
Alas, thou canst not repent
And of a fact, need not
For thou dost only what thou hast been created to do.

But why, oh why, must it be in my bird bath?

Summer Remembered


Your wild breezes speak
of children’s brown faces
and barefoot lovers
Whisper, you
palms and long memories
of flowers’ heads weaving
The oracles of summer
robed in deepest sapphire
profound in blue
Did you know I understand you?


An Appeal to Eve

(Photo shows Eva (bottom) and her mother, Minnie.)

An Appeal to Eve is a poem written about my grandfather’s sister, Eva. Unmarried and pregnant in 1923, Eva would leave home and go live with her maternal grandparents. As a result, she took her own life at only 16 years old.

Eva was never spoken of while I was growing up. I only learned of her existence well into my adulthood. I cannot imagine the grief this situation would have caused to both Eva and her family.

My aunt discovered one of Eva’s dolls last year and asked if I would like to have it. For me, Eva’s doll is a poignant reminder of Eva as a young girl and of the crisis she faced as a young woman who felt hopeless in her brokenness. I pray that although her story is sad that my poem conveys the possibility of hope even in the most desperate of circumstances.

This is the text of the note Eva left for her mother:

Tulsa Oklahoma
April 26, 1923

 Dear Sweet Little Mother,
You have been the sweetest of all mothers and have done everything in your power for me and don’t think I don’t love you for I do but am so tired of being away from you and mother dear please forgive me for all the things you didn’t want me to do and for all the cross things I have said to you. And please be good to the *little boys and always remember me as your sweet little daughter.
*The “little boys” Eva mentions here are my grandfather and his two brothers.

     -by Terrie van Baarsel

eve’s doll,
what stories can you tell
of a girl who lost her way
buffeted by guilt
over the life she carried
and fatally bruised by shame?

eve’s doll,
please tell me her stories
of anguish fierce and grief sharp
of spiraling disgrace
snaking upward
crashing earthward
heavy as stones
unrelenting to the crushing of her soul.

eve’s doll,
look at me
do you see her weakness as mine?
can you perceive the human condition
that binds us together?
and like the first Eve
we hide
and every woman hides and waits.

eve’s doll,
your silence bears witness to judgment and pain
but the question still remains
can human hearts once broken
be made whole again?
and how many eves do I meet on my way
and fail to offer up even a morsel of hope?

eve’s doll,
please tell her for me
and in the telling tell all eves
there is respite at the cross
where consequences to sin are limited by Grace
and mercy points boldly to the Gospel store.

(I hope she heard the sound of Him walking
in the garden
in the cool of the day…
I hope she heard His voice calling
“eve, where are you?”)

eve’s doll, you have not been forgotten and neither has she.