Grove of Patriarchs: A Poem

I’ve had a few folks ask me if I’d share the poem I wrote and read at the Annual Congregational Meeting. Here it is!

How many trees were felled
for the making of this place?
And where did they come from?
Some came, surely from not so far away
rooted and raised in the Northwest rain
they knew this land well
its culture and climate
its soil and soul.
Some came from further afield 
(or further aforest)
brought here by mighty ships
on mightier swells
bringing the beauty and sins of distant lands
to this home where they came to live and love.

What did the trees look like before they came?
Some had a strength and sturdiness
that came with great age
which they gave to fortify the place,
now mighty beams lifting ceiling and sight
to Things Above.
Some came diseased, deadened, warped
and found in the giving of themselves to the place
that they now had a place.
Some came too rigid
and were softened, bent,
and in their bending they became
instruments for stringed songs
violins, guitars, cellos, violas and basses
from them rose a resonance
a beauty not possible before their bending
a freedom not imagined before giving themselves up.

How many trees were felled for the making of this place?
On the sanctuary ceiling are rows of 
planks upon planks upon planks
easy to overlook or to take for granted
and yet if just one was missing
everyone would notice the gaping gap
and the place would feel forever incomplete.
Trees that are now pulpit, font, table
handed themselves over to careful carving
the chipping away, that something
always seen in them 
that they could not see in themselves
might be revealed and discovered,
and in the beauty unveiled in the carving,
these containers of the Holy
point to the beauty of the plain elements they hold
bread and cup, water, an old book
a heavenly feast, spring of eternal life, the Word made flesh.

How many trees were felled for the making of this place? 
Many trees, and only one tree
that cursed tree
that sits in the center of the place 
where the Carpenter gave his life for the forest
in their surrender to the Carpenter killed on the tree
together they have made 
and are making and 
are being made by this place
felled trees now trees of the field
clapping their hands in joy
planted by streams of water
in giving their lives up
to the place, to the Lord of the place
they have been found
in their dying, here at last, they live.

The Fourth Day – Genesis 1:14-19

Posted by Tyler Kirkpatrick | July 2, 2020

I was recently inspired to write a poem for each day of creation–(which are written as poems themselves). I will be posting a new entry each day. Today: Genesis 1:14-19.

The Fourth Day

I am on my deck in early darkness when it happens:
The clouds, as if painted with liberal oil brushstrokes
by some Impressionist artist
turn apocalyptic pink;
a revealing of the world splashed with
colors forgotten by night 
now irradiated by perfect golden hue,
the flowers and trees yawn and begin
their daylong photosynthetic stretch 
toward this giver of life: 
the Sun.

I am walking back to my dorm in cold alpine air
after a late shift in a summer job at 
the Paradise Inn when I see it:
the mountain. Rainier is not hidden
by night but all 14,000 feet from my feet
to the slopes of the summit are seen in 
unexpected luminosity: miles of glacier glowing
phosphorescent, a reflection of reflected light:
The Moon.

I am deep in a desert canyon miles
from manmade illumination of metropolis and city
The sky hangs above me like a porous black canvas
trying to hold back the very light of Heaven which
bursts through in millions of little places:
The Stars.

Gazing up into space I am transported out of time
into the fullness of this Present
unaware of growing awareness of my smallness,
warmed by the faint breath of eternity invading time.

No wonder so many worshiped 
Sun, Moon and Stars in holy reverence!
What wonder that Ancient Hebrews living 
under the brilliance of Middle Eastern sun,
gazing at the mystery of the moon
and spectacle of the stars did not bow
in worship, but knew even these are creation:
The Fourth Day.

[1] Snowstorm of Stars, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. [retrieved July 1, 2020]. Original source:

The First Day – Genesis 1:1-5

Posted by Tyler Kirkpatrick | June 29, 2020

I was recently inspired to write a poem for each day of creation–(which are written as poems themselves). I will be posting a new entry each day. Up first: Genesis 1:1-5.

The First Day

“God is not darkness, but in the darkness I saw God.”[1]

The work of God begins in darkness 
evening first, then morning.
While I slumber in subconsciousness
God works well before my waking
knitting neurons and leading them on right paths
“Our life is a faint tracing on the surface of mystery”[2]
Unexplained abyss formless and void.

GPS pinpoints the coordinates of our routine transpacific flight
But neither person nor computer
the world that lies below the
surface of the deep over which we hover

Ferries filled to capacity jet confidently
and routinely across Puget Sound,
barely submerged into the unseen darkness below
They are water-winged children
Dog-paddling on the surface of mystery

God is light 
…though the darkness hide thee.
The work of God begins
hovering over the darkness 
of a world still uncreated.
In the unexplained abyss of
formless chaos
God calls forth light
evening first, then the illumination of morning. 
The first day.

[1] Something I read years ago and a quote I’ve been able to track down. Rainer Maria Rilke, perhaps?

[2] Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.

[3] Featured image: Watkins, Carleton E., 1829-1916. Solar Eclipse from Mount Santa Lucia, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. [retrieved June 29, 2020]. Original source:

Questions in Quarantine: A Poem

Posted by Tyler Kirkpatrick | March 23, 2020

Wendell Berry makes it a practice of writing a poem on his Sabbath. I’d highly recommend the anthology of those poems, titled This Day. I always thought this was something he did as a sort of committed discipline, and perhaps it is. But I’ve also found it is in moments of rest when inspiration most often comes naturally, and a poem is more something I’m receiving than generating (this is not, emphatically, to say I consider myself an inspired poet!).

This poem came on my Sabbath this week. It needs two disclaimers before I share it with you:

  1. These are questions, they are not truth claims. This is not a systematized theology or even a sermon. They are questions that I guess I have been pondering over and praying over, pushing on and pushing against, seeing what holds and what doesn’t, what’s true and what’s not.
  2. I always try to use gender inclusive language in my sermons (e.g., “humanity” instead of “man,” etc.), but it was a bit trickier in this poem because of syllables and sound. I know that bothers some people, so I do apologize.
Questions in Quarantine
Unseen save for the trained eye of the microscope
this virus infects and affects the world of man.
Is it of man?
Was that ancient sin of Adam and Eve
not one of pride only, but also of greed?
"They wanted to know,"
but might the pursuit of knowledge and discovery unchecked
lead man unsuspecting deeper and deeper
into the secret places of the earth,
touching things unseen and shaking free unexpected terrors?

Is this virus of earth?
As man searches desperately for immunity,
might this very virus be the immunity
of an earth weakened and sickened
by polluted skies and melting ice caps
and obliterated ancient forests?

Or is this almost unseen virus
of a world entirely unseen
save for in prayers and in ancient stories?

Is it--in a word--of Hell?
Is this the infernal serpent still seeking man's destruction?

Or is it of Heaven?
Is it God's wrath on man's disobedience or,
more likely, God's mercy on man's disobedience,
shaking him free from slavish service and sacrifice
to the idols of economy and production
recalling him to what is essential:
taking care of creation
and taking care of fellow creatures
and surrendering to the Almighty,
the Maker of all things, seen and unseen?

A Poem

Posted by Tyler Kirkpatrick | 11/13/2019

I make absolutely no claims to being a poet. I am invigorated by reading poetry, and I hold poets in high esteem, but I myself rarely endeavor to do it. Every once in awhile, however, a poem stirs in me and I do the best I can to help it emerge onto the page. Like the last blog post, this emerged during Brittany’s and my time away in Hawaii (it’s almost as if rest is a good thing for writing…). It was inspired by the beauty of that place, by my meditations on my soon-to-be-fatherhood, by my own memories of Hawaii as a kid, and by C.S. Lewis’ great insight that nostalgia “is a desire for something that has never actually appeared in our experience,” a desire that nevertheless points to a longing that exists in each one of us for Something greater.

Longing for the Far Off Country

A blue-hued horizon haunts the memory
of a past which never quite was,
like yearning for some distant island somewhere
far beyond that straight-edge symmetry of sea and sky
but which is only found in the very granules of sand
and stick of salty air
and in photographs faded and tinted by time and love.

The sun still hangs high overhead
in a sky not yet tinted orange
by the inevitable fade toward which it marches.

Soon my day will bring forth a new day which is not my own
but to whom I hope to give this island love,
that he may yearn for and be haunted by the happy memories
of an island hinted at in the fluorescent pink sunrise
longed for in the blue midday heat
and fully found only after the last orange of sun-painted sky
vanishes into night.