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by Sam McKay
Section III

Sometimes a kindness works more cure than pills,
for drugs can heal a wound, but grace fulfills.

On Getting Up In The Morning

Let go of the night gently
as shadows flee the dawn.
When thrush rings in the day,
take his music into your heart.
Then better prepared you will be
to plow that stubborn mule
or reckon with a churl.

The Higher Mystery

If I could map the miles to heaven
or shape a star to shine,
Or form the seed and soil to grow
a honeysuckle vine,
If I could pilot comets home
or make a bird that sings,
I'd fathom God's galactic plan,
see how He governs things.

The Host

I made a little niche for God
but never found him there.
God made a spacious room for me
and filled the everywhere.

A Couplet

It's when I want to sound so very wise
that what I then say comes out otherwise.

The Fisherman

They grumbled -
he washed their feet.
One betrayed him -
They ate together;
He gave the sop,
angling with love,
to save the traitor.

God Help Us

Such fools we humans are -
Our painful lessons lost
In long antiquity
While we ignore the cost.

Created like the King,
We copy common clod.
We don our guises new,
Like Adam, hide from God.

We scan the garden earth
And covet all that's in it,
And what we set our hearts
Upon, we die to win it.

We catch an east-bound jet
To flee the ruling Voice,
And find escape cut off.
God, redeem our choice!

Climbing *

An ageless yearning grows
That, ceasing strife, mankind
Might heed the angel's song,
The deeper peace to find.

Belief is rampant yet
That tyrants all will fall,
And men in peace shall know
The love that leaps a wall;

That careless man, adrift,
Abusing Mother Earth,
Return to purge and prize
The home that gave him birth.

We dare to trust, as sure
As sunshine warms the sod,
New visions high will lead
Man struggling on to God.

* The above was written by request for enclosure in the Broadway, North Carolina Time Capsule, buried by the town watertank 17 October 1970, to be lifted in the year 2020. It won a District Certificate in the James L. Pearson Contest sponsored by the Poetry Council of North Carolina in 1971.


Had I the magic Merlin had, I'd oust
The evil germs and make them flee away
From earth and sky, assisting those who joust
With Death to hold their mighty foe at bay.

Had I good Merlin's rod, I'd banish crime,
The mind that makes it, plant seeds of good.
I'd cause a wind to blow through all of time
To break up evil, set a noble brood.

I'd carpet every human desert with
The Rose of Sharon, bring all bitter strife
To naught, cause wars to falter, cease forthwith,
Make peace and love be king and queen of life.

But even God in ruling, forces not
His will, so who can fix a counterplot?

The Dissembler

Jonah knew the will of God,
But turned to do his own.
God said to Jonah, "Hear me!
The Ninevites need you now
To tell them truly how
To live abundantly."

Jonah knew the will of God,
But doubted good would come.
"Why should God force me to make a change?
My place is here!
They need me here!
I like it here!
And yonder foreign, unknown place is strange!
They have their god.
They ways are odd.
Don't like their sod."

Jonah knew the will of God,
But boldly disobeyed.
He ran away to Joppa fast
And caught a boat to islands past
The Lord's domain - or so he thought.
He did not know the woe he bought.

Jonah the will of God,
But God he did not know.
Who dares disguise his goal to reach his private aims?
Who colors truth to suit the hue of lesser themes?
Who fancies God in shadow dwells
with cataracts upon his eyes?
Who contradicts the sovereign God
in truth his own selfhood denies.

Jonah knew the will of God,
And God knew Jonah well.
"What ruse you choose will run aground! -
My fish will see to that! - Turn around!
Dark night will follow troubled night
Till, loving God, you do the right."

Jonah knew the will of God,
And learned obedience well.
For life's addendum God is not.
Escape God's yearning man cannot.
God's fish will catch him soon or late,
And then, return he will,
Or die a reprobate.

Guide To Murder

To kill your neighbor
do not use a gun
or axe
or maul of any kind -
these would be crude.

Peace-loving people
abhor criminal ways.
W do our murder
by more refined methods.

We use conformity,
enforced uniformity,
personal disdain,
social ostracism.
We sell the whispered word,
withhold the helping hand.

In short,
we kill by never caring.

My Kingdom

A kingdom is my mind and I the king.
My thoughts are subjects that obedience give.
Some gentle folk from many countries live
Within and grace the realm with peace, and bring
Their friendly kin who cause the world to sing.
The king's own choices winnow like a sieve
That dances, screening out the negative.
Decisions are not dropped by any string.

My kingdom runs through ages old and new,
It consummates all time in one short span,
yet is not withered like a yellowish husk,
But verdant still, with new life breaking through;
The fields give fruitful yield, and through the land
Is heard the serenading thrush at dusk.

Holy Communion

The Lord invites us to his table spread
With bounty from his store of living gifts
Accented with his presence here which lifts
The whole above the common meal of bread.
This life-restoring fare is for the dead
Who cannot reach to God themselves; It sifts
Them from the herd; it heals and cures the rifts
Between their wayward souls and him, the Head.

Uncomprehending people looking on
Mistake the ritual for simple rite.
But we who come to table with our King
Know surely that our Savior Lord has gone
Into the deeps of agony to quite
Entirely save us from soul-suffering.


A red, red rose,
like sweet incense;
Its frame man knows,
but knows whence.

Acquiescing in another's plan
without a thought to choose
equals walking on the hills with sand
abrading in one's shoes.

As The Primrose Grows

The hardy primrose, fully fed by sun
and soil and rain, grows on - and God knows why! -
in spite of bruising plow and beating hail,
to lift its cup of beauty toward the sky.

Encouraged, man, made strong by faith in God,
and nurtured well on grace divinely sent,
in spite of anguish, pain and sorrow, must
press on, fulfilling life with God's consent.

A Profile

The young victor came running ahead
of the fellow that follow a noise.
They arrived at the cruelty place
where the struggle had been. With loud voice

he retold how the beast, when he fought
it, had wriggled and writhed and anguished.
It was blow upon blow to the head
till the thing in the grass was vanquished.

So he told how he beat it again
and again and again on the head,
And he strongly continued to hit
it, he said, although it was quite dead.

"Hey, old man," he inquired of the priest,
"Did you see what I killed by the frame
Over there? A fast one, long and lean."
Said the priest, "Yes, I buried your shame."

The First Christmas

In winter
The Word was made flesh
To dwell among us…
To gather in our scattered minds,
To unify all human hearts.

Celestial singing:
Shepherds heard, rejoiced, adored…
Spring possessed their lives.

A normal world:
"Busy" folk ignored the Babe…
Only quiet people knelt.

Deepness darkness slashed:
Leading kings to worship Him…
Light dissolves the dark.


Joseph and Mary made a weary
trip to Bethlehem,
the crowded town which had no room
or resting place for them.

The donkey shelter, shared with sheep,
gave them quiet roof,
while Mary kept her borning bed
amid soft eye and hoof.

A burro's manger held Him safe,
while the hay framed his face -
the lowly baby Mary bore -
Lord of time and space.

Let fervent hospitality
be in our hearts toward Him,
to break the darkling spell that keeps
or world from Bethlehem.

Two Short Poems

Agony belongs
to the mind that rejects its
proper self-image
and clings to a substitute
created in fantasy.

Assassins do not always use a gun,
some dare to slay with words and never run.


Peace be yours!
The peace of inner quiet,
mind and heart speaking the same language,
the joy of being at ease
with self, with nature, and with God.

Peace be yours!
The peace of wholeness,
the fullness of being,
fruition of life,
mellowness of spirit.

Peace be yours!
The peace of harmony
in all relationships:
each to its own purpose,
each with its own rhythm,
each in its own maturity.

God living in us,
loving through us!


My mind races to name the things
I'm thankful for
and loses the race.

Above life itself with its common blessings
and the urge to thank,
four things compel gratitude:

The capacity to love,
the persistent power that
knits person to person and
wins the miracle of life;

The sense of humor
which covers the awkward moment,
redeems the errant day
and saves a doctor's bill.

The ability to communicate,
drawing tighter lines of fellowship,
bridging chasms of misunderstanding,
painting clear pictures of truth.

And faith, the ability to trust,
which calms the fearful heart,
and raises songs of praise
even in the sorest crisis.

Haiku type poems

Judging by their talk,
poor health is the only joy
some folks ever have.

Prejudice needs no
but love is learned.

Most of our troubles
rise from imagination's
misguided ferment.


Hungering ragamuffin stares.
Gaudily lighted house emits
sounds of honky-tonk rock.
A child cries,
a woman screams,
a man yells,
their voices compete,
become a growl,
grow louder.

On the curve a stable
lighted by radiance from
a manger -
two figures sit,
three kneel,
sheep graze.
An invisible choir sings

A Breath Of Prayer

Eternal God, who gave us life,
sweetened it with love,
salted it with tears,
and carried us through dark nights
and terrible times,
who has been our greatest source
for strength in times of testing,
for calm in midst of storm,
for peace instead of panic,
for love received and given -
be not far off now,
but close at hand,
like the air we breath.
Be to us like the pulse where,
if we put the finger,
we know the heart is beating.
Enable us so to trust your presence,
your goodness, your love,
that we may radiate assurance
and joy and peace.


What does one do
when the sky falls in,
shatters into a thousand pieces,
piling up at one's feet,
rushing one's heart?
What does one do with the rubble?

One picks up the shards,
not all at once in panic,
but patiently,
bit by bit,
and builds another sky.

Not the same - that's impossible,
but a new sky that will be more beautiful -
in time.


The friendly sparrow on my window sill
is not afraid, but thanks me for his fare.
I won- do I trust as well the One
who watches me from morn till night with care?

Who feeds the robin from dry ground
and brings the lily to its bloom,
shall care for man in life's sore round
and guide His trusting children home.

The Awesome Moment

The great organ rolled through the towering arches.
The choir lifted Handel's "Hallelujahs."
Then silence so intense a falling feather would disturb.
The minister stood,
slowly gazing over the people,
he smiled a reassuring message,
and spoke the language of the heart.
His voice an echo of the organ,
his eyes were electric sparks,
yet soft as Easter.
As he spoke, the Holy One
shot arrows into hearts,
made refugees,
provided shelter.
A surging Spirit possessed the speaker and moved
like a wind through the crowd,
stirring, encouraging,
inspiring toward life's apex.
After the choir's "Amen,"
the organ floated the assembly.
Faces glowed.


An arrowhead
shafted for true flight
hits the mark.

A word
given context
tells its meaning.

A homing pigeon
finds its loft.

offered opportunity
shows its nature.

A human mind
reveals its worth.

The Cathedral

Its massive columns and thick walls
situated on solid rock,
stand firm, like an extension of the stone,
beckoning the hurt and the hungry.

Its great nave welcomes all
who come and seats them to advantage.

Many rooms and chapels
meet the needs of indigents and students alike.
The flexibility of appointments
facilitates its ministry
to all kinds of people
in all kinds of needs, so that,
like the Apostle,
it becomes "all things to all people."

Beauty For Ashes

(Written as part of an Easter worship service with choir and narrator, performed at the A. R. Presbyterian Church in Oak Hill, Alabama in the spring of 1947. Published as an Easter Poem in Church Management, a Professional Clergy Magazine.)

When the day has ended and darkness has fallen,
When crumbled are castles and gossamers too,
And the thoughts of my heart are sinking away,
Will the dust be forever my bed?
And the grave forever my house?
Is this the surest extent of my hope?
Are ashes my only reward?

Hopefulness, where is the heat of your breath?
Where shall I look for the power to live
And to feast on the marvelous beauty of God?

Desolate man of the earth,
Look to the Hill of the Lord;
For the beauty of God is upon the Hill,
The Hill of the lord where the people bow down before God.
The strength of the Lord shall be Hope for your life,
The strength of the Lord upon Calvary -
Look to the act of the Lord on the Hill,
The act on Golgatha Hill,
And for Life it shall be unto you.

Go to the House of the Lord,
man of the earth, you must go
To the place where Hope is alive,
To the temple of Peace;
Go and sit with your eyes unveiled,
Go and sit in the House of the Lord
Till Peace and Hope shall live in your heart.

The Beauty of the Lord is upon the Hill
The Hill where the people give praises to God:
Praise for His excellent wonders and
Praise for His marvelous Love.

We of dissimilar birth,
Where shall we meet together?
We of the catholic earth,
Where shall we meet each other?
Rich ones, poor ones, good and bad,
Those who are glad and those who are sad,
Men of every color, men of every creed,
Men of every race - every human breed,
Where shall we meet each other?
Where shall we meet together?

Beautiful, Beautiful House of the Lord!
Beautiful, Beautiful temple of Peace,
Wonderful, beautiful Hill of release -
The place of Jehovah that shines
With the beauty of Holiness -
Come, all you men of the earth,
Come and Witness the Beauty of God.

In the House of the Lord
The dark is dissolved by the power of Light.
The eyes of the heart come open
To the Beauty of God -
The marvelous Lord who gives Beauty for ashes,
Who gives Peace to the hearts of men -
The Lord who brings Joy to the world,
And Light to the lands that are dark;
In His House is the Light of the World.

Into His house shall they come,
All the men of the earth who love Life,
Who would see many days,
Who would witness the ways
Of a Man who gave up his own life
That many who grope in the dark
Might ever live in the Light.

Sweet are the hours that I spend in the House of the Lord.
Joyful and painful the sessions of hearing His Word:
It is good to live in the House of the Lord -
It is there the secret of Yahweh is heard;
'Tis there my heart discerns
The secret of blessing,
The power of His wonderful Love,
And the Beauty of Hid powerful Love.

In the House of the Lord
My heart will sit as a child -
A child that goes to its father
For an answer to its question.
In the House of the Lord
My heart is a child
That goes to its mother
To still its fear
And dry its tear.
In the House of the Lord
My heart will learn the secret
Of the blessing of the Lord.

O man of the earth that I am,
I would I could share
In the wonderful Beauty of God!
The Beauty that shines in the Lord
Brighter than the sun that beams
From the top of the sky.
Brighter far than all the suns
From all the skies
Is the brilliant resplendence of God!

O that I could taste of the Beauty of God!
That the Lord would give Beauty for ashes to me!

The life of a man is consumed in the earth,
Consumed in the jaws of a monster that flashes
Its wrath in a hellish and greediest mirth
On all the children of men in the earth -
And ashes are left to men of the earth.

Ashes are barren and cold.

As I sit in the House of the Lord,
Would I be brazenly bold
If I wish I might taste of the Beauty of God?

You shall taste, O man in the earth,
You shall taste if you look to the birth
Of the Beauty you see in the House of the Lord -
The birth of the Love that lived from of old,
Ere the base of the earth was made.

He was a Man who lived as Light,
He was a Man and God combined in One,
Whose living brought to light the Beauty of God,
For HE! He is the Beauty of God!

Look to the ache of His ageless Love
As He travailed on the Cross,
Then you shall taste of the marvelous grace
Of the wonderful Beauty of God.

As I sit in the House of the Lord
And long for a taste of the Beauty of God,
I hear that they slew Him and put Him in a tomb -
I hear that they hanged Him on the Tree of my shame.

With thorns they crowned Him
With sporting beisance they mocked Him,
With nails they hanged Him,
With jeers they taunted Him,
With a spear they thrust Him,
With a devilish glee they killed Him -
The sun - it failed.
The earth - it shook.
At the darkness of the act
That was done at the Place of a Skull.

The Lord of Light was He,
The King of Life and Love.
He came down from above.
Into the deepest darkness He went;
Away from His Son God turned His face,
And into the Pit He went, so grace
Might live in the hearts of men in the earth.

Under the power of Death He put himself;
Into the darkness of the cave He was laid;
Into the bonds of the grave He gave himself;
Forever complete was the price that He paid.

But the dark cannot master the Light,
Nor can hell ever conquer our God -
So out of the cavern He came
And up from the Pit He arose;
The power of God was the sinew of His soul;
He arose with the brightness of glory untold.

He walked with His friends on the Road -
He'll walk with His friends evermore,
And He reigns on the throne of His Grace
As King of all kings and Lord of all lords!

O man of the earth that I am,
Appearing in the House of the Lord,
I know that I stand in the Presence of God,
The God of all Life, the Lord of my soul.
My ashes He took and Beauty He gave:
Beauty for ashes - the gift of the Lord.

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