A Deed to the Light

“She has the timing and wit of a great comedian and the intense, quirky symbolism of a prophet.”
Image Update

“Underlying the overall intensity of the collection are . . .the startling juxtapositions of images and sudden metaphors. . . . But she never loses the familiar touch, the honest voice.”
The Midwest Quarterly

“Her great genius is her use of metaphors. . .  Toward the end of the book, the poems seem to step out of their narrative constraints, as interesting as their stories are, and become pure metaphor.” 
Thom Satterlee, Christianity and Literature

New Tracks, Night Falling

“Jeanne Murray Walker leaves her readers with the feeling of enormous power held in reserve only by the true instincts of a superb artist.  This is her finest book.”
Rod Jellema

“Yes, night falls in these poems.  But we’re in the company of a bold woman with a stout flashlight who . . .  reveals a path through the woods that is as brilliant in the dark as it is in the light.  I think I would follow Jeanne Murray Walker anywhere.”
Leslie Leyland Fields

Gaining Time

“This book is funny, subtly erudite, uplifting. . . .  It consistently hints at the greater mysteries, both cosmic and theological.  . . . Many poems explore. . the problem of accepting the brevity and relativity of one’s destiny as a transient creature situated on the ladder of successive generations.  A splendid collection.”
John Taylor, Poetry

“. . .she flies high—and also low and close when necessary—over her mighty subject, the inventing of America.  . . . discovers the fabulous in the daily and the wayward as a way of life.
Theodore Weiss

Shadow and Light: Literature and the Life of Faith

Shadow & Light is remarkable for the rich variety of its selections.  Spanning a range of literature from medieval religious lyrics to contemporary American poetry, from John Bunyan to Isaac Bashevis Singer and John Updike, it makes vividly clear that the exploration of spiritual values is not limited to believers of one faith, or, indeed, not even to believers.”
Robert Alter

The Geography of Memory

“What powerfully winds through the narrative is a poet’s wonderful reflections on her own history and the nature of memory, identity, and the self.”  
–Myrna Grant

“The Geography of Memory is, hands down, one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read.”
–Paula Huston

“. . . it’s full of joy as well as sorrow.  What a gift she has given us.”
–John Wilson

Helping the Morning: New and Selected Poems

“I marvel at the wholeness of Walker’s vision, and how it pits the illumination of insight against the mystery of eternity.”  
Elaine Terranova

“Many of the poems in Helping the Morning display a quality that can fairly be called sacramental.  Jeanne Murray Walker is a major poet.”
–Frank Wilson, Philadelphia Inquirer Book Review


Letters, be the memory of this moment,
Ruth’s 3-legged Golden Lab
sniffing for news beneath the hedge,
grass glittering with rain,
the bird feeder mangled by our car.

Years from now I want to remember
how we walked the splendid earth
and saw it.  When children read this
and smile at its old fashioned vision,
then words, stubborn little boxcars

lugging meaning across the rickety
wooden bridge to the future, hold,
hold.  Couple against time, bear
the red geranium, the slender birch—
you, sentences–glitter against

the massive dark of nothing.  Tell
of feet that buffed this doorsill
till it gleams, of cartwheeling
children.  Remember the Rosetta
stone, the hum of Xerox machines,

remember monks copying, how
a prisoner in solitary picked up
a pebble to scribble stories
on the wall.  Letters, I tell you,
even if your paper yellows in the attic,

even if it’s torn and thrown into the sea,
each of you separate from your brothers,
swim through the ocean, row across
the sky, walk through the wasteland,
find a reader.  Stay together.  Hold. 


Sunlight is breaking into colors around me
     like a catastrophe I can neither
          shake nor explain–  
how the sun’s gold finger
     dusts the tops of maples.
          How the maple’s articulate roots 
wrestle with dumb earth. 
     How our houses, breaking free of foliage,
          stare candidly at one another’s naked bodies.
Time washes all the bridges out, dismembers
     the maples, expires like a parking meter.
          We check and recheck our watches and
pay costly tickets anyway. 
     Yet look what a little thing can defeat time.
          I made this from bits of salvage–
my own breath
     and a few second-hand words.


               –In appreciation of Maxim Gorky at
                 the International convention of Atheists.

Like Gorky, I sometimes follow my doubts
outside and question the metal sky,
longing to have the fight settled, thinking
I can’t go on like this, and finally I say

all right, it is improbable, all right, there
is no God.  And then as if I’m focusing
a magnifying glass on dry leaves, God blazes up.
It’s the attention, maybe, to what isn’t

there that makes the notion flare like
a forest fire until I have to spend the afternoon
spraying it with the hose to put it out.  Even
on an ordinary day when a friend calls,

tells me they’ve found melanoma,
complains that the hospital is cold, I whisper, God.
God, I say as my heart turns inside out.
Pick up any language by the scruff of its neck,

wipe its face, set it down on the lawn,
and I bet it will toddle right into the godfire
again, which–though they say it doesn’t
exist—can send you straight to the burn unit. 

Oh, we have only so many words to think with. 
Say God’s not fire, say anything, say God’s
a phone, maybe.  You know you didn’t order a phone,
but there it is.  It rings.  You don’t know who it could be. 

You don’t want to talk, so you pull out
the plug.  It rings.  You smash it with a hammer
till it bleeds springs and coils and clobbered up
metal bits.  It rings again.  You pick it up

and a voice you love whispers hello.


                                                                –for Don Murdoch
This is the end of the world, slow motion, this burning,
             burning till earth is parched, the cypress crisping,
                          cactus brown, brown grass, brown horizon.
Through the Cathedral hands of the faithful pass a candle.
             Feel the pull of prayer in the hot dark.
                          Tell God nothing can live without water,
water, which is 70% of what you’re praying with,
             rivers longing through you for more water.
                          That’s when it comes to you:
in prayer lies prayer’s answer.  In the calling out,
             the visitation.  In the arrow lives the target’s eye.
                          So water rises from its knees, believing water
will come.  When rain starts, a fat drop
             joined by her sisters, the sound of dripping like
                          a shy nun sneezing, your heart stops with pleasure
and you pick up the cantaloupe you’ll have for dinner                                                      
             to shake it.  The promise inside:  flesh
                          the color of sunset, the slosh of a whole ocean.