Category: Generations Of Faith

My Mother’s Birthday: Two Poems

God’s Grace

You went on
After more losses
Than I can name

With you as
Mother and model
I must do the same

You suffered and
I do not ask you
To bear more pain

You are eternally well
Still saying, “I love you”
Again and again

(Published in Bell’s Letters No. 109; and The Discerning Poet, Autumn 2004) 

And two years later…

Taking turns
Letting each other go
Only to learn again
How love grows,

Published in Bell’s Letters Poet No. 115, Jan. 2006.

Guest Artist: Poem By Win Couchman


The teakettle, heating
Old elbows on the
Support my head.

First worship
Always free.

Published with permission from Win Couchman.

Win is the author of “Don’t Call Me Spry” Creative Possibilities for Later Life (Harold Shaw Publishers, 1990); and a co-author of other books with her husband, Bob.  “First Worship” is a new poem.

A Wounded Fox

 Soon the sun will rise. 

I love the seasons wherever I am…as I type in the morning, I watch the light change over Lake Michigan.   At this moment, the lake is very still.  A few ripples.   There are icebergs and a ribbon of rose along the horizon.

On Sunday, a wounded fox came to a sunny spot in our front yard, right in front of the house, to rest and heal.   He or she seemed unafraid and not in pain.  When we came home a few hours later, the fox was gone.  I am honored that we were a safe place for a time.

Lake Michigan has always been a part of my life.  My parents took us to feed the ducks there in Milwaukee when we were young.  When Karl and I lived in Illinois, we drove to Chicago to walk the beach there.  Here every season, we usually go for a drive further north to see other views of the lake.   I cooked and waitressed at Pizza Hut when we were students  at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  So sometimes we pick a Pizza Hut in a northern city for our destination.  

We like our “tried and true” routines.   We know what a blessing from God they are and not to be taken for granted.  

Everything Can Change Overnight

“Everything Can Change Overnight”  was written a long time ago, when we lived in an unincorporated area of northern Illinois.   Corn fields became subdivisions and shopping malls.   Cars went by fast, and it wasn’t easy to go for a  long walk after awhile.  

The following poem was how I felt when fields by our home started going the way of development too. 

Yet, there was a saving grace:  wetlands.  

Part of the area had to become ponds; signs posted later on taught us that this protected our basements from water.  Native plants were added, herons and red-wings came.  “The pond” became a place of healing for me.  I walked on safe gravel paths and sat on benches.   It was beautiful in every season and has stayed in my soul.  I take country roads for my errands here, so I can still know this aspect of God’s gifts to us in nature.  I listen for the red-wings every spring and see herons here too.

Here is the poem, however, exactly as I wrote it back then.  Perhaps this story can offer hope that things can turn out better in the long run than we first imagine.  

I have loving memories of this little house and neighborhood–it was simply time to come home to Wisconsin.

Everything Can Change Overnight

In the Midwest, if you’re a walker
You walk through the seasons:
Today brings a blast of wind and
The first snow of the year;
So I add another layer and
Head out…And look! See how
The snow gives dignity back
To these familiar fields,
Sacrificed to another subdivision.
Nobody’s working now, and the
Silent tractors stand like
Tired oxen pleading forgiveness
For the pain that ripped across
My heart the day the assault began.
Everything can change overnight,
But the wind that chaps my cheeks
Soothes my soul.

Published in Poetic Page (1994); and

If We Ever Had The Chance

Today is my father’s birthday.  Harold Borgh lived on earth from 1915-1983.  One year we gave him a crossword puzzle dictionary, which is now in this room.  He held it together with duct tape. 

The publications where my poems have appeared are on the lower shelf of one of  Dad’s “blond bookcases,” as we call them in the family.  I think he bought these from a fellow teacher and then did the finishing work. 

Today I looked for one of my grief poems, but found this one instead.  He would like it and approve of this choice for his day.   Mom enjoyed this poem too.

Dad also told me to be sure to save time for my own work, which I keep learning all the time.   That, and to get plenty of rest, so I can keep creating by God’s grace. 

If We Ever Had The Chance

Would we remember?
We ponder that
As we keep each other warm
These cold winter nights,
Watching other rabbits
Run free in the moonlight.

If we ever had the chance,
Would we remember how to
Run from danger and
Seek our own food?
We’ve been domesticated
For as long as we know.

Yet, we don’t say this
In a self-disparaging way.
We bring happiness to this
Family, we comfort each other,
And now we inspire the
Poet who lives next door.

Still, if we ever had the chance,
Would we remember?
Does she?

Published in Time of Singing (Volume 20, 1994); MOMENTS IN TIME (October 1994).

January Light


First real snow
last night
My heart lifts
January light.

This was published in SMILE (WINTER 2000-01); and reprinted in SMILE (FALL/WINTER 2009-10).

Post update: January 10, 2019

Ellen Grace Olinger