Setting the Inner Compass – March 2023


Reading poetry is one of the ways some of us nourish our faith, a way we set or reset our inner compass and stay focused on the big picture, on the spiritual journey. I know that is true for me. In this monthly column, ‘Setting the Inner Compass’ I share some of the poems I find nourishing to the soul.

A personal note: Last week I attended my first meeting as a member of the PCUSA Self Development of People national committee. I came away inspired by the efforts we support and my amazing colleagues on the committee. SDOP funds groups that empower people to improve their lives. We are not interested in “Do-For” projects but empowerment projects. In North Carolina, we visited THE INDUSTRIAL COMMMONS in Morgantown, NC. This group up-cycles fabric by taking old tee shirts that folk send in and for a fee make quilts out of them. They then turn the left-over fabric into thread from which they create clothes to sell. The workers are given the opportunity to buy shares in the company. Currently this group is exploring a housing initiative. Our initial grant helped get this project going. This is only one example. I came back to Tacoma Sunday night excited by my new colleagues and the great work and potential of the SDOP ministry. I am honored to have a tiny part. Please support SDOP through the One Great Hour of Sharing offering.

Now to the poems. March is always a ‘sneaky’ month, a month when we think we have turned a corner toward spring but are often reminded that we are not really there yet. Signs of spring slowly emerge teasing us about the promise of April. Spiritually it is a season to prepare and get ready. A season to look inside, to equip ourselves anticipating the celebration, the mystery, and the message of Easter.

My first poem is “March” by David Budbill. I connected with David a few years before he died. I really like his work. He went to college with my mentor and friend Gary Schwab. Once out of the blue David sent a packet of poems for Blues Vespers. I was thrilled. In the poem “March” he captures the spring is not quite here yet nature of March.

“Any Morning” by William Stafford counters the not quite here yet nature of March by reminding us to be here, now, to be present to where we are. Like everyone else I am always rushing to the next thing, the next horizon. His poem reminds me that it is indeed a moment of grace when I have those times of “Just lying on the couch and being happy.”



“MARCH” by David Budbill

Rain-glaze on snow. Mud and ice and snow.
Coyotes feed themselves on gaunt dreams of spring.
Then what comes slowly suddenly he sees.

Light hovers longer in the southern sky.
Brooks uncover themselves. Alders redden.
Grosbeaks’ beaks turn green. Chickadee finds the song
he lost last November, and blue jay abandons
argument and gluttony. He cranes his neck,
bobs his mitered head; he bounces on a naked branch
crying: Spring!
But, like all winter’s keepers
he speaks his dream before
he sees the fact.
Did you hear a phoebe?

And he out again and walking on the earth,
in the air, in the sun, ankle deep in mud.

“ANY MORNING” by William Stafford

Just lying on the couch and being happy.
Only humming a little, the quiet sound in the head.
Trouble is busy elsewhere at the moment, it has
so much to do in the world.

People who might judge are mostly asleep; they can’t
monitor you all the time, and sometimes they forget.
When dawn flows over the hedge you can
get up and act busy.

Little corners like this, pieces of Heaven
left lying around, can be picked up and saved.
People won’t even see that you have them,
they are so light and easy to hide.

Later in the day you can act like the others.
You can shake your head. You can frown.


“March” by David Budbill is found in Judevine: Revised Edition by David Budbill (Chelsea Green Press) and used with permission of the Literary Estate of David Budbill.

“Any Morning” by William Stafford is found in: Ask Me: 100 Essential Poems of William Stafford (Graywolf Press, 2014) and used with permission of “The permissions Company, LLC” on behalf of the estate of William Stafford.

Rev. Dave Brown is a writer, published poet and the creator/host of Blues Vespers. He is the former pastor of Immanuel Presbyterian Church, Tacoma WA. Dave speaks about interfaith with an Imam and Rabbi. He serves on the PCUSA Self Development of People Education national committee and the PCUSA Education Roundtable. ([email protected]).

Previous Story


Next Story

My School Went on Lockdown...No More!