What’s in a word? What’s in a rhyme?
Is it the silent tick-tick of time?
Are they definition, description or meaning?
Are they truth, fact or seeming?
A word is empty without sight.
The sun is darkness without light.

Peter L Richardson
spring 1997

“Lazarus: Come Out.”
1 Corinthians 15:55

We poets like to think of winter as Death:
     the long, dark, frozen wasteland.
But if you hold her cold and dry breast in close,
     you can feel the Mother breath.
Like a great grizzly bear in hibernation,
     the earth breaths Life in and out.

Death is merely a fugitive on the run…

Peter L Richardson

“‘I’ and ‘Love’ and ‘You'”

Always present in my heart,
but never really near.
Alive in the shadows of my soul,
and swimming in my tears.
Once possessed inside my arms,
the touch and feel of skin.
The taste of lips, fingers intertwined,
brightening me within.
Now arms stretched out open forth;
just beyond my grasp.
Following at a safe distance
just left me in the past.

I see you there, your dark midnight hair
dancing in the bright blue wind…
Content or forlorn? A pause for reflection?
or are you waiting at the bridge?

Peter L Richardson

“Come With Me”

Come with me, my friend, to the inner depths of my soul.
Strip away the lies, will we find an empty hole?
Would we have made it this far, if not for the Lord above?
Come with me, my friend, let’s find what a man is made of.

Come with me, my love, let us join together.
Baby, please stay with me, at least until forever.
Will our love still be, after we both have gone?
Come with me, my love, let us join as one.

Come with me, my enemy, I’ll take you by the hand.
I’ll walk your mile, if you walk mine, and try to understand.
For our differences won’t matter, when the world is spent.
Come with me, my enemy, and the hate we will forget.

Peter L Richardson

“After the war…”

Now that chaos has died down,
     we’ve called truce,
     drawn up our peace-treaties,
     and learned to negotiate like neighbors.
I think about the casualties of war,
     the survivors and innocent victims
     caught in the destruction.
It is they who are most deeply affected
     as the borders and boundaries
     change in their lives like the seasons.
How can they hold identity?
What heritage do they have to cling to?
To whom will they pledge their allegiance?
     But they do have choice.

I have fought long and hard and deep
     for this land.
To provide a place for them,
     a safe haven,
     a home.
The land won—a wilderness:
     A scorched scar on the earth.
But I have bled my fingers to the bone,
     broken my body like bread,
Filling the land and removing the stone,
Planting seed and building new home.

After the smoke is cleared,
After the infrastructure is finally
     coming together,
I receive the first fruits of prosperity
     for this new nation…
Fruit to provide for my people
     for the offspring…

Now that that is all done,
     what have I won?
The work so long and so hard,
     I wonder,
          do they trust me?
And what have I won,
     without their trust?

Peter L Richardson

 “A Gentle Whisper”
          (I Kings 19:11-13)

I do not think we were meant to exist
          inside so much noise.
What would life be without the distraction
          of so many toys?
This solitude, this silence –though lost to our blood—
          it is deep in our spirit,
And though we strive and we strain for understanding,
          it’s only in the quiet
          that we can hear it.

Peter L Richardson


If I knew my way around these lost parts,
I would go much deeper into the dark.
Oh, the deceitful, mysterious heart!
          What a man longs for: the beauty, the art.

“Beauty is mysterious as well as terrible.
  God and the devil are fighting there:
          the battlefield is the heart of man.”
            -Fyodor Dostoevsky

Peter L Richardson

“’Wild at Heart’”

How I long to know the outdoors…
To make fire for warmth and for food,
To make knots for shelter and for protection,
To conquer the land with a map and a compass,
To climb up the mountain and canoe down the river,
To see the stars in all their splendor as God intended,
To feel the good solid ache of my bones
     at the end of the day
          around a fire with good friends,
               with my sons,
                    with my lover.

How I long for this!
To see the glory and the fury of the mountainside,
To rest under cool pines,
To swim naked in gentle pools,
To know the fierce beauty of the desert.
          This is what freedom feels like to me…

Peter L Richardson


Oh, the wonder,
          the splendor of youth!
Collecting shells in a bucket.
Would that we were able to see
          all God’s treasures he brings to us
While we stand on the shores
          of eternity.

Peter L Richardson

for Gabriel

Oh Isaac!
All my years I have yearned for you.
Oh Isaac!
Oh Isaac!
I used to lie awake wondering,
     “Who would you be?”
Trying to picture your precious smile,
The love that dances in your eyes…
     your beautiful deep eyes,
     when you look on mine.
Oh Isaac!
Oh Isaac!
The Lord is our Father,
     His judgment is right,
But when your tiny fingers grasp mine,
     I want them sealed there forever.
Oh Isaac!
Your peaceful night.
The steady beat of your heart:
     The hand of love your Father placed on you.
Oh Isaac!
Oh Isaac!
Yesterday we began the journey;
     Today I bind your bones.
Where will the Lord provide the Lamb?
     When He calls me to raise my knife?
Oh Isaac!
Oh Isaac!
There is still so much to see!
Oh Isaac!
The Lord’s hand is upon you,
You are child of God,
     as am I.
I am only your brother.
Oh Isaac!
Oh Isaac!
Covenant child…
Who can separate
     what God has joined together?
Oh Isaac.
Forever I am with you…
Oh Isaac!
Oh Isaac!
My son. I love you.
My son!
My son!

Peter L Richardson

“At the beach with God”

How can we dare to know you?

Your fleeting thoughts
     deeper than the ocean.
Your imagination beats our existence,
     the rhythmic waves
     crushing our bones into sand.
All your hidden treasures, your wisdom,
     we only receive what’s washed ashore.
If we dare to swim past the breakers
     surely we are taken away by your currents,
     drowning in your expanse.
Even the pride of our creations,
     gifts from you in the first place,
          knowledge and understanding
          passed down
          and built upon,
     only last so long
     before returning to land.
Even with all the reason you’ve allowed,
     we’ll still never reach bottom,
     never understand the shifting sands,
     never understand the full expanse,
     never master the Leviathan on our own…

And yet, you have named us sons and daughters,
     you have made yourself our friend.

Peter L Richardson


your joy
and spits
in my face
with the laughter
of amazing grace.
how wonderful
you are!
your smile
tickling my heart.
how can it be?
in deep darkness
your light
gleams through me!
laughter dances in me;
like a child
running wild,
my heart all a’burst,
my soul in thirst,
living water
and spits
in my face!
such joy found
in amazing grace.

Peter L Richardson

“The Picture of My Love”

The picture of my love—so small tonight—
A star, a tiny pinpoint of light
Over the earth so cold and alone
In a universe built on flesh and bone.
The moon guides all sacrificial rite
And secures our paths, with his deceiving light,
Up the mountains that we built so high
To reach the heavens far in the sky.
But rivers run down and far too deep
To pump hot blood into our cold feet;
Which grew roots, held strong our foundations,
That were ripped out at the storms slightest sensations.
Oh! How the lightning danced and the thunder roared,
But the rain never stopped; on and on she poured,
And fed the river that ran through the land,
And broke through the dirt till the dirt turned to sand,
And reached the ocean, full of power and might—
A strong steady rhythm with depths deeper than night.
With experience from the beginning, its fingers could reach,
Touch, and caress all lands lapping up the beach,
Or capture and crush all mountainsides down;
For the ocean holds freedom, by no chains is it bound.

The picture of my love—so strong today—
A sun giving life in death’s decay.

Peter L Richardson

“The Big Blue”

Mouth full of salt,
Skin caked and cracked.
Laid out in my world,
Spinned in a swirl.
Endless blue,
Endless black.
The sky roared,
Shouted and sparked;
Put the mountains in motion
More than a few…
But I’ve been spared for starvation.
Still, I sense
Familiar scents;
Distant, yet distinct;
Above, a dove
Holds an olive shoot.

Peter L Richardson

“High Skies @ Sunset”  

mystical, magical, marshmallow fluff
          tinted golden-brown
in the magnificent golden
brilliant, buoyant light-stream of flame
          blinking my vision,
dancing and drifting up into
blue up, blue down, blue all around,
          forging on forever with
no boundaries, just endless visions
          of fluff
                    and fire
                              in flight

Peter L Richardson


We are all lost, alone,
     dragged away by the undertow.
Caught in the chaotic flow
     of the struggle to survive,
     to master the swim.
I plunged in…

I begin anew…
     longing to be held by You

Peter L Richardson

“The Maker of the Universe: A Passion Play”

The mystery of the universe,
The meaning of life is this:

It is love,
True love.

It is the first bloom of spring;
It is an ancient river flowing out to sea,
The seed that floats in the breeze.

It is love,
True love.

A mother enduring the joy of birth,
A father’s proud smile.
The return of a wayward son.

It is love,
True love.

A man giving up life for his friends:
The means to the end;
His Spirit conquering death.

It is love,
True love.

It is her head rested on His chest,
Their lips locked together.
It is the ring in her ear,
The rings on their fingers.

It is love,
True love.

It is one spirit;
Deeper than one flesh.

It is love,
It is true love.

“Wear me as a seal over your heart, as seal upon your arm; for love is as strong as death, passion cruel as the grave; it blazes up like a blazing fire, fiercer than any flame.”
–The Bridegroom, Song of Songs 8:6

Peter L Richardson


She talks go
But when I go
Red lights flash ahead.
I prefer to stop.
Fire burns red.
My flesh burns for you.

Far better
In me
A white fire
Of the core.
Soul consuming.

Peter L Richardson

 …dedicated to William Matthew Walz.
          February 2, 1918 – April 28, 1998

There are not any questions “why” in here;
I have peace; I know you are in good cheer.
Your time out: debate set your heart in place.
It was gett’n late, but you found Father’s grace.
Finger points down, finger raised to the sky,
Kernel of wheat falls into the ground:
               Your fruit multiplied.

And after the ending of your grand day,
The seeds you have sown are still portrayed,
Arrayed in the faces, the spirits, known;
Planted in me, a piece of you has blown,
Sown again from me into my offspring,
‘Till the day we stand together to sing:

Peter L Richardson

“Foolish Dreamers”

And who are we
To think that we can change the world?
What right has been given us
To play out our passion,
To drink up our tears,
To try to love despite our fears?
The images we spill,
The words we weave,
The rhythms and melodies conceived.

What blood has been shed
To seal our approval?
How dare we dare to risk
In this supposed civilized society?
Its eyes crusted over
With sleep,
It’s ears deaf from
Nervous chatter,
Quaint conversation,
And the loud gong of progress.
Its tongue bitten off
By its own covetous lust of
Unfulfilled gluttony!

Who is it who calls us
To expose
The naked Truth
That has taken root
Deep within our hearts?

He is the longing of our souls…

Peter L Richardson

a sonnet

Snow like sorrow floats down the night-time sky:
Frozen flakes dance beauty ‘gainst the vast space,
Flutter on my cheek, melt under my eye,
As my thoughts flutter against my lost place.
Below a fire burns and dances bright;
The flames lick the darkness and drink the cold:
The peace I’ve learnt, no matter what the plight,
But I still miss the fire we used to hold.
Your passion so bright, your deep and vast heart,
I couldn’t contain it, held you at bay,
Beauty external, the least of your grand parts,
Your true treasure neglected, thrown away.
     Regrets for this fool are not something new;
     I never thought my greatest would be you.

Peter L Richardson


I long to see the sun set over the ocean.
The ocean is eternity;
The sunset is the end,
And soon after, you can’t see the horizon.
Midnight blurs the lines of distinction,
And the earth and the sky are endless.

Peter L Richardson

“unexpected wonder”

A dark crowded room.
          Stories in lights against the wall.
We laugh together for the first time in a while.
Stepping out into the warmth of the night
          He talks of stories from the past
                    and he asks about the future…
Before I can respond
          The night sky explodes
                    in energy, joy,
                              and laughter:
There is a symphony of color
          Above our heads;
                    rainbow explosions
                    sailing bright
                    against the darkness.
          Playful fairies
                    appear and disappear
                    making thunder as
                    they move in and out
                    of our world.
Awestruck by this unexpected wonder,
          I perceive my child in colorful glows:
                    face alive,
                              mouth agasp,
          The magic dancing in his eyes…

For the moment I feel it also,
          And I believe in it again,

Peter L Richardson

“Green Chevy”

Riding in the back of his dark green Chevy.
Cold vinyl beige pressed against my cheek,
The seatbelt pressed hard against my bladder.
My brothers’ both asleep,
          or at least pretending to be.
Passing headlights create shadow-worlds
          orbiting the ceiling.
Another long day;
Exhausted from play or pain,
          or both.
But no matter,
          childhood lasts forever…

Soft rock pumps through the air,
          stirs up a memory,
The Living Legacy:
          My dad and his Chevrolet.

Peter L Richardson



Peter L Richardson

“Hiking the PA Grand Canyon”

I tried to take a photo,
          but I couldn’t capture it,
The majesty too great for the frame,
          the detail too small to focus on.

I thought I’d paint a picture,
          but memory’s not worth the glory,
And colors I can create simply
          can’t capture this creation scene.

I decided to write a poem,
          but words simply don’t describe
          the imagery I see:
Rolling mountain hills cut deep and dark
In the valley by a bright blue river sparkling
In the sun with banks damasked with pastel
Purple and white against green grass and
Trees swaying in the breeze, the warm strong
Breeze that takes my breath away…

My travel companion sighs and says,
     “A picture is worth a thousand words,
          but being there is worth a thousand pictures…”

Words cannot describe your glory, and
          this is just the basest of your art.
The books you write upon our hearts,
          how you write beauty into our soul,
          the way you clear our mind with your Spirit
          so we cannot deny it when we hear it.

Being here with you;
          every time we meet,
                    it’s like being brand new.

Peter L Richardson

“Ode to Pop”

The clouds covered up the stars, the storms swelled,
Yet he navigated his great boat.
Through the mist and through the raging waters
He steered his old ship.
Leaving port, he travailed dangerously
Down river:
Past shallow bottoms, above jagged rocks,
He steered faithfully toward his ocean.

One hand firmly grasped the wheel,
One eye housed on the diming light,
Into the great fog he traveled,
The ship’s passing through the night.

Peter L Richardson

“Receiving Victory”

I always excused myself with the Sin.
“If I could just stop the sin!”
               I told myself,
“I could flow with my talents.”
               I told myself that
               I would reach out
               like a tree
               planted by living waters
               basking in the sun and
               dancing in the clean, clear air!
“Ohhh, but the Sin,”
               I cried in the night,
“He pollutes my water,
  He blackens my air,
  He blots out the sun,
  So I struggle cold and fruitless.”
But I am not a plant.
I am a man.
               Free with thought,
               and with feet.

Born into Death,
The Sin pumps through my veins.
In the beginning I gave myself up to him.
Though I now despise him—
               I still find myself fascinated
               by the stories he creates
               to bind my limbs,
               to bruise and rape me
               cold and dead.

Once, the King pardoned me:
               He gave Himself up for me.
I was trapped, a slave to the Sin.
I was abused, drunk in my sorrow.
He came to me humble, with no glory:
“Follow me,” was all he spoke.
               The love in His eyes,
               the authority behind His word,
               how could I not follow?
My limbs still bound by chains,
               I stumbled after.

I had expected greater things
               from One with such power,
               but He just died.
Afraid of my old master, I hid and I wept…
But then He appeared!
               Not a vision!
               Not a ghost!
But He that was dead appeared in the flesh!
            —Only this time in His glory—
               Oh, His face is my warmth!
               His breath a sweet fragrance!

Tears controlled my senses!
His embrace broke my chains!
His love, His power entered me!
His Spirit saturated me!
He wore the King’s crown!

I said “Lead me! Forever am I free!”
               Head’s free; hands’ free;
               feet are free to follow
               without hindrance.
To follow Him into battle:
Fighting in the trenches to save others
               caught and captivated by the Sin and by Death;
               to declare their pardons from the King!

Still, my will is free to look back…
               to wander from camp,
               to visit with Sin.
Evil children come and they take my hand:
Lead me off my path to the Promised Land.
               In darkness they lie and they wait…
               I am overtaken.
               The Sin.

  The outcry.
  The weep.

In mercy my King comes for me:
               the gallop of hoofs,
I look up to see muscles ripple
               beneath short white fur.
There He sits crowned with majesty,
               riding his warrior horse.
Steam shoots from the beast’s nostrils
               as my King pulls the reigns.
The beast groans,
               my King draws a flaming sword;
Eyes of fire look at my soul and speak:
               A flash of white light.

I am rescued again.
I am rescued again.
I am rescued

That which needs to be mastered
               pumps through my veins.
Therefore, I make my body my slave.
I will no longer give myself to the Sin and to Death,
But by my King’s Spirit I will put the Sin to death!
I set my sight upon the Throne.
I bow before my Master.
               I receive Your grace.
Make me Your slave.
A slave to righteousness.
               I receive Your grace.
You have made me a son and a brother.
Let me serve in Your kingdom.
               I receive Your grace.
I eat at Your banquet table.
I receive the rich and filling fruit of Your Spirit.
               I receive Your grace.
Train me for war.
Dress me for battle.
               I receive the full armor of God.
               I receive Your grace!

How can we be cleansed, refreshed,
               if we walk too many days from the River?
How can we find warmth,
               if we hide in the shadows?
How can we breath clean air,
               if we make love to a rotting corpse?

Walk with Jesus:
               Receive Grace.

But by the grace of God I am what I am; and His grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all; yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.
1 Corinthians 15:10

Peter L Richardson
1/26/97 (first draft)


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