sun setting behind your head and even at a distance

you possessed an aura of optimism, that no adversity

   could extinguish, even though your mother died so

young.  You survived years of rigorous religious training,

   inheriting a tough endurance thanks to your Italian

father’s immigrant example of hard work at an early age.

   Your eyes blazed with fiery gentle rays, intelligence plus

a child-like simplicity and love of Nature.  Nothing, even

   death’s approach, erased your equilibrium.  Not a worrier,

you lived naturally saying: “today is the best day of my life.”

   I’m recalling us awed by Titian’s magnificent Madonna

rising over the sanctuary’s sky in Santa Maria Gloriosa

   highlighting life’s sacred, secular, communal, personal,

diverse, un-nameable, inexplicable and simple rituals.

   Afterwards we walked over foot bridges back to Piazza

San Marco, our final evening in Venice, stopping to pray

   before a plaque honoring “Pope John XIII,” who once

was Primate of Venice.  How personally blest by his reign

   liberating folks like us from religious life to marry.  No

stigma given his Vatican II proclamation that every walk

   of life’s equally accessible to God’s work.  Raising a family

became our priority, a last supper in this city by the sea:

   violin serenades, pasta, tomatoes, cheese, anchovies,

green salad, bread, wine, sunset over a shimmering sea.



 (in homage to my husband Joseph A. Grassi, Biblical scholar,

who ages ago wrote about “Animals Liberation”)


    plants galore across America’s fields  gardens  forests

raspberries  strawberries  zucchini  beans  beets  pumpkins

   onions  olives  chard  tomatoes  kale  lettuce  broccoli  garlic

avocado  herbs  cauliflower  rice  corn  peas  wheat  oranges

   melons  apples  blueberries  grapes  peaches  lemons  pears

potatoes  turnips  pistachios  cashews  almonds  walnuts  soy

   peanuts delicious litanies on and on for a plant-based foods

simultaneously saving animals from slaughter if we dare

   switch our meat-eating habits while helping heal mother

earth’s climate restoring lands for wild creatures  letting

   forests proliferate  ending animal farms breeding in cruel

captivity  curbing cattle grazing more and more territory

   so stop animal methane gases polluting air  soil  waterways

halting the build up ozone damage  if we dare do our part

   at home  work  in community  turning towards a plant-

based diet as a crucial step  hard as it may be for many

   what we eat can make a difference in reversing climate

change if enough of us forget pork  turn away from steaks

   give a cold shoulder to chicken and turkey products

instead enjoy tossing veggies  nuts  seeds  grains in pots

   and pans as we spare sensitive creatures shivering in fear

at death’s slaughter house door  while we create a future

   filled with magical choruses across the globe  baa baa

oink oink  moo moo  gobble  gobble  cluck cluck  lovely

   as any pet’s meow or woof woof  under clear skies

Related image



Image result for monet's water lilies

(after visiting SF de Young Museum’s
Exhibit: Monet:The Later Years)

Water lilies in a pond below the pavilion
in France,Prospect Park Brooklyn, or

San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. Set
the scene, where you wish, close to your

heart for an August afternoon when the air
is fragranced by bridesmaids’ bouquets

of roses, while a willow leans over trying
to whisper in your ear about the enduring

support of Nature as a setting for love,
forgiveness, healing, so wave away any

grudges, welcome thankfulness for “being”
in this here and now grove of beauty,

encourage your eyes to photograph what
will be needed later in life, savor the scent

lavender, jasmine, wisteria, the dampness
while stepping on the path between pines

following the thunder and lightning storm.
Savor the cheeses, baguettes, tomatoes, wine

prelude to the wedding feast. Study the sun
slowly moving along the green benches across

glass top tables.Take time to notice bundles
of beauty in the background lifting their white,

lavender and pink petals like stars to the sky,
held afloat and anchored in a pond beloved
by Monet painting their everlasting essences

exhibited for all who come into the garden
offering perpetual adoration. Amen alleluia!



 (in memory of my brother Richie Cook)

Field of Red Petaled Flowers


   sunrise over Manhattan  sunset

over the Pacific  dandelion pinwheels

   parachuting over the Ramapo ridge

and San Francisco’s Crissy field  this

   being Easter week  back east  out west

when I wake from a dream of my brother

   Richie walking home after his high school

job cooking at the tiny barbeque chicken place

   on Flatbush Avenue  an ever ready smile

even on sweltering days  initiating fun

   and games on our city street  never losing

a child-like joy in Life  even as an adult

   not parading good deeds  preferring to

practice what he believed “the good news”

   without fan-fare  devoted to family  friends 

co-workers  neighbors  strangers in need

   “a Calling” he felt as a child at Holy Cross

church Brooklyn  following in our father’s

   footsteps  understated heroic service to all

needing down-to-earth care  so it is I miss

   Richie’s witty wise practical listening with

Flatbush street-smarts in store plus a deep

   spiritual reservoir  making folks laugh

through tears  so it is we hear his voice rising

   in memory as dawn does across the forests

and fields back east  out west  amen  alleluia!


From: Victor Hugo “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”

Image result for notre dame cathedral


and majestic edifice.  But, notwithstanding the beauty which

 “The church of Notre Dame at Paris is no doubt still a sublime

it has retained even in its old age, one cannot help feeling

grief and indignations at the numberless injuries and mutilations

which time and man have inflicted on the venerable structure,

regardless of Charlemagne, who laid the first stone of it . . .

the number of her chapels, porches, towers, pinnacles is varied

to infinity . . . statues, painted widows, arabesques . . . the

prodigious external variety of those edifices within which reside

such order and unity.  The trunk of the tree is unchangeable,

the foliage capricious.”


Etching “Fallen Angels” by Gustave Dore illustrated for Milton’s “Paradise Lost”

.  .  .  years ago, fresh from the convent,

   in a Brooklyn College literature class, I

   read Milton’s Paradise Lost the first time,

feeling shock since unable to conceive such

   sympathy as the poet portrayed for Satan

   alongside angel friends falling forever into

hellish fires, so I saw these beings of physical

   beauty, extraordinary intelligence grieving

    together, each possessing a fatal flaw

of rebelling against almighty rules, costing

   the loss of everything near and dear, thus

   these once upon a time noble creatures

condemned to eternal exile, far from their

   heavenly home, redeemed perhaps by

   the blind poet’s portrayals through his

inner eye’s compassionate gaze lasting

   as a challenge over centuries: daring us

   to examine our conscience whether we

act as self-righteous enlightened fools,,

   excluding any and all we deem ignorant,

   flawed, filled with undesirable traits,

outside boundaries of our supposedly

   enlightened dialogue, a predicament

   Jung called “projecting our shadow”

outside oneself, community, country

   by scapegoating “the other” in hostile

   distain, humiliating cruel confrontations,

unless we learn to embrace over our lifetime:

   failures, faults as us too, what used to be

   called “sins” as a universal condition

needing forgiveness, reconciliation, so in

   these polarizing times, decades later, I

   bow in thanks to my Brooklyn alma mater

challenging me with Milton’s daring lines

   about fallen angels as ancestors while he

   ends the epic with our first parents standing

beside an angel with a flaming sword about

   to exile them from paradise with the promise

   of a second-Adam’s coming, whom some

shall call the Christ, or by other lovely names

   arriving in every age, who seeks lost lambs

   suffering far from a caring fold, so he/she/

we/they will bend down lift up and be lifted

   into welcoming arms: homeward bound  .  .  .




Singing doves diving through dark clouds

Honied lemon leaves lilies in the labyrinth

Stars and planets shine within the world’s

Choir humming birds willows waving

Angels laughing with gargoyles seven

Springs rising higher to the blue heavens

Close closer comes the enchanting dove

Descending at the crossroads of dreams

And desires such surprises see rainbows

Spinning roses wings announcing Love’s

Arrival as she says Yes bringing divinity’s

Heart-beat down to earth within her being



(for Sister Veronique
Redwoods Monastery, Whitethorn, California)

We drove north for five hours from Marin
past mustard fields, wild flowers, suburban

towns, vineyards, valleys, forests, mountains.
You were returning to your monastery after

your sister’s funeral in Belgium. I signed up
for a silent retreat after my mother’s recent

passing. We shared memories, grief, hopes.
So engrossed in conversation we missed

the exit for Garberville, till 30 miles north,
so a U-Turn south brought us back an hour

late for community prayers. We winked
as a mischievous pair across the aisle and

whenever our paths crossed in the silent
times of meditation and meals. I loved

watching you hike each morning in your
pink hooded jacket over a long monastic

white robe. Up the hill into the woods.
“Essential” you said. Closeness to Nature

at the core of your spirituality. One afternoon
you introduced me to a redwood grove you

felt resembled a chapel and we spoke of
“the child within us all” as an expression

for woundedness. Such honest vulnerability
is rare among religious folk, who too often

consider expressing so-called weakness
as being selfish. While you believe human

frailty is an entry place for God’s encircling
compassion for all beginning with oneself.

My final morning at the monastery we hiked
to a beloved tree you called a “mother madrone.”

Praying in the forestry silence we followed a trail
into a cloistered field of wild flowers, where deer

and wild turkeys were grazing. Goodbye beneath
the redwoods. Blest I’ve been ever after by your

letters of prayer, kindness, courage for whatever I’ve
faced. Smiling I recall pine needles in your hair,

lavender buds along your hem, as you bow chanting
psalms in chapel, child-like twinkle in your loving eyes.

pix-1      pix-2

Redwoods Monastery

I have ascended to the highest in me, and look! The Lord is towering above that. In my curiosity I have descended to explore my lowest depths, yet I found God even deeper. If I looked outside myself, I saw God stretching beyond the furthest I could see; and if I looked within, God was yet further within. Then I knew the truth of what I had read, “In God we live and move and have our being.”  

— Bernard of Clairvaux, Cistercian, 12th Century


med chest

Thanks to: Dr. Efrem Korngold
Chinese Medicine Works, San Francisco

I’m lying on the table
in a treatment room as
the practitioner concentrates
on pulse places discerning
weaknesses needing the silvery
needles to set free the chi’s flow
feet to head round again under
a red lantern of ultra-violet light
in hope of healing from sciatica

little suns spinning secretly
along the dark forest floor
dipping underground springing
to keyed meridians on my skin
as chanting monks sway with
breezes ruffling the curtain
at the corner of Noe Avenue
while I drift in day-dreams of
summer sun on my shoulders
fountain bubbling below a pair
of blue herons heading home

little by little learning the path
begins ends begins again mixing
dark light strong soft high low
left right conflict reconciliation
love loss insight error anger
patience faith doubt resistance
collaboration young old infinity
mortality sun moon yin yang

so pain slowly leaves space for
contentment settling in a dark
stone sun-bathing a humming bee
in clover a field of wild flowers
children laughing lovers kissing
fauns dancing star-fish shimmering
salmon streaming cumulous clouds
thunder & lightning mountain goats
valley for lost lambs garden of heart’s
delight rejoicing in Eastern sages
reaching western shores Chinese
medicine’s healing art for one and all

Chinese  spices



After Gabriel offers a bouquet of lilies
to Mary, she is asked for her consent to
become God’s mother in a 1446 mural

by Fra Angelico who surrounded the scene
with a golden radiance of sunlight rising
in the room, while a silvery banner was

rippling across the sky announcing
the good news promised for generations,
so the story’s set in motion: the Nativity

presenting a divine child of peace arriving
around Solstice time as a star burning
bright for seekers to a haven healing for

the wounds of a weary world, daring us
to day-dream as children do, leaping over
doubt, dancing in a magical circle of joy

near enough to hug the lamb and come
close to this wonder of a woman who
welcomes an angel in shimmering wings

fanning by the doorway, as a flamed tongue
dove, hovering in heaven, springs to life
proclaiming peace on earth, good-will to all,

drawing us near and dear round Mother Nature’s
miraculous child as a Light at dawn warming
families, friends, strangers, lambs, shepherds…

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"Carolyn Grassi's 'Heart and Soul' is fascinating in its fluent and affecting blend of memoir and poetry, reminiscence and sheer invention, loss, grief and homage. Adopting a persona at times, or imitating a seminal influence on her writing at other junctures, [Carolyn Grassi] has created a quilt of memories and reflections on a life's education—the journey we all hope to make from becoming to being, or from acting as disciples to representing ourselves and our art as apostles..."
Read the complete foreword by Ron Hansen in 'Heart and Soul' published by Patmos Press, San Francisco, CA.

Ron Hansen, author

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Carolyn Grassi

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Lit Prof at SCU