Reborn in Starlight by Brad Burkhart

         for mom

flying above the clouds
watching sundown
more striking than any i’ve seen and
i know it’s you
making your way toward your last day 
and me 
not ready to say goodbye

brilliant sky splashed with the deepest
orange against blue and gray
how can i say what’s needed
how does one encapsulate
eight decades     and me witness 
to just six.

the mixture of sorrow and grace 
a new face given old beliefs 
searching for peace
an unknown road
a final link
from brilliance to darkness
or perhaps 
for you 
darkness to brilliance

• • • •

Published in Waymark Voices of the Valley, #14
Reborn in Starlight (sculpture) by Brad Burkhart

Public Art:
Exhibited in Pajaro Valley Arts Members Exhibit Online Gallery 2020

Many years ago, when both sculptor Brad Burkhart and i were San Diego residents, he invited several poets to participate in a collaboration where we would write a poem to be shown with a particular sculpture of his. i was honored to be among those chosen. More recently, he reached out to me, interested in seeing some newer work of mine and suggested a new collaboration. He sent me pictures of four of his newest sculptures, and one immediately spoke to me about a poem i’d written (the one above, titled sundown) upon the loss of my mother – somehow his sculpture reflected the hope in the last lines of my poem. i sent the poem to Brad and it was a go. Brad then asked me to name the sculpture, which was an added honor. This process brought two artist’s work together nearly seamlessly.

The title, Reborn in Starlight, reflects the beauty of Brad’s piece: stars tossed, raining down upon life below – human, animal, vegetation – leaves reaching up for the light of life.

From collaborator, Brad Burkhart, Escultor del corazón
This year (2020), Pajaro Valley Arts created their annual Members Exhibit as an Online Gallery, and Brad Burkhart’s work appears, in collaboration with poet Cheryl Latif, alongside 58 members’ fine art creations. Brad says, “I previously collaborated with Cheryl in the year 2000 for my Poetry Book Project featuring my sculptures alongside the work of 20 San Diego poets. For the PVA exhibit this year, Cheryl chose to contribute a poem for a recent piece that spoke to her of hopefulness after the death of her mother. I also invited her to name the piece.” (Please visit these projects by clicking the links in the above text.)


he walks under the bridge   destination uncharted

a strapped and zippered keeper of possessions
hunch his shoulders, yet it’s his gait
that speaks the weight he carries

come night he knows cold concrete
freedom in borderless dreams

until the cacophony
of morning traffic wakes him
& he walks another day   another day…

would that he stay in those dreams

• • • •

Part of Seattle Poetry Grid, a project developed by Washington State Poet Laureate, Claudia Castro Luna, 2018-2021
Photo by Ali Bakhtiari on Unsplash


all that i left at water’s edge
the lie of unspoken truth

the truth of unspoken lie
the pulse of breath

the sound beneath all silence
this is my meditation.

• • • •

Public Art:
Bainbridge Arts & Humanities Council, Poetry Corners, 2006
Photo of public art poem “yuugen”

solitary blues

your hopes are a standing pond at glade’s edge
feathered blues     a solitary heron
your wishes     pennies tossed with abandon
tarnished     embedded
across rain-slick roads your dreams wend their way
away from this chosen paradise     far from these trees
holding dew     like tears
ready to spill

• • • •

Public Art:
Bainbridge Arts & Humanities Council, Ferry Terminal Walkway Installation, 2005 thru 2007
Photo of public art poem “solitary blues”


 it is not the jewish people who carry the ark,
but the ark that carries the jewish people.
— bamidbar rabbah 4:20 

beyond the gates of faith we wandered,
infinite horizon before us, 
the taste of unleavened dreams
on our lips; our lives mishkan.*

we bear more than tales of pharaohs and prophets,
absolution granted at the altar of sacrifice.
the sight of ash falling like snowflakes
the stench of hatred carved into our skin

the miracle of faith is not contained in structures.
the times of man find us nearly spent. we tear 
at the veil of injustice, find our way past reason
discover imperfection is our salvation.

keepers of the sacred scrolls, our history is our future.
we gather in sorrow or celebration, temples built, 
destroyed and built again; inner chambers of our forebears, 
holy thresholds we prepare, we swear tikkun olam.*

our prayers seed this valley, resound from the mountains 
we answer the call to build a new home — not from ruins,
but promise, our many hands one hand of God, 
the sacred breathed into each stone, beam, window and tile.

the beauty of this place is the beauty of our hearts; 
how far we have come. 
in our shoes grains of sand remain
lest we forget.

hear, O Israel, we have found makom.*

• • • •

*makom: place
*mishkan: temporary structure
*tikkun olam: repair of the world

Commissioned by Temple Emek Shalom, Ashland, Oregon, 2002

Read more about the poet’s experience with this commission.

Featured photo at the top of this page:
framed installation of the public art poem “makom”


warm currents swirl around you
sudden shifts of cold stiffen skin
over and again you are pinned against the reefs
fear rising like fingers of coral.

you were not made for this place.

you have met the eyes of sailors trapped in sunken ships
stayed beside them until stillness replaced grief
offered what comfort you could
your tears murky brine.

no wooden hull holds you
no anchor to this sandy floor
yet you are tethered
left to wonder what   or who
might still your grief
release you from this dark surrender

shafts of light pierce water’s surface
as if to pull you to the blue above
an ancient call beseeches
dream           grow wings            rise

• • • •

This poem was published alongside Four Gospels of the Natural World (sculpture) by Brad Burkhart on his Poetry Book Project.

for onan

o sweet boy
we found you between
the darkness and the dawn,
unsure about going on
longing for something we no longer know
(for we left that place long ago
and remember it not)

how much fear can one moment hold?
a life dissolved or brought fully here with
one breath, one tear.

your tiny fingers reach for tether
in this airy world, you seek touch
to ground you,
arms to surround you,
the sound of another’s heart close again.

we gratefully oblige, remembering being held by

now we hold you
and whisper in your ear:

• • • •

Published in New Millennium Writings, Summer 2000 Special Issue
Public Art: Bainbridge Arts & Humanities Council, Poetry Corners, 2004
Photo of public art poem “for onan”