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“They also serve who only stand and wait.”

But here I sit, half blind, life two-thirds gone,
musing and sipping coffee on the deck
of Latte Balcony – my wife picks up the check
de facto, since she works. I’m on my own,
burdened with guilt, and being waited on.
All my life, so many others who expect
and hope my best, invested much in me – a debt
past due. How can I repay that loan?

I read the Pragmatists and Russians, as a Congolese
student passes — dirty apron and a bin of plates.
God needs our acts. There is a world at stake,
says James. And, like Dostoevsky, I believe
that we’re redeemed, redemptive – gift, gratuity.
It’s not my money, but I think, “tip high.”


Late November. That’s when the fragile, blackened bones
of trees appear, like old, dark-suited men
swaying in prayer, reading backwards in an alien
language, waiting for the Shabbos stars to glimmer on.
That’s when the light feels spent and day half gone.
I try to look busy with my yellow tablet, pen
and stained, cold coffee cup. Useless. That’s when
I watch the hurried others getting something done.

Milton — though a proud, hard man — had genius. Unlike me.
Outside, the engines fire up and headlights flare. The cars
speed off to somewhere. I sit here…and watch the trees.
Silent, with their patient rootwork, they stand and serve
some buried purpose. While the pale diaspora of stars
begins now one…two…three…their night’s blind labor, unobserved.

Photo by Kris Atomic on Unsplash

Richard St. John

Richard St. John’s newest poetry collection, Book of Entangled Souls, was recently published by Broadstone Books.   He is also the author of The Pure Inconstancy of Grace (published by Truman State University Press, in 2005, as first runner-up for the T. S. Eliot Prize for Poetry), Each Perfected Name (Truman State University Press, 2015), and Shrine (a long poem released as a chapbook, 2011). Rick is an active member of the Community of Reconciliation Church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  For more information, please visit his website:

One Comment

  • Judith Hardy says:

    Thanks, Rick, for this poem–a gift on this dark spring morning.