Troubled Tides

The vacationer ventures out to meet the cresting waves

which rise to meet her, buoyed by balmy breaths of wind.

Translucent fish frolic beneath the turquoise sea,

tickling the invader from the crushed-coral sand.

She stubs her toe on shells uncovered by the tide

as she sways to and fro on the ever-present current.


Another power of nature joins forces with this current.

Clouds overflow, adding fresh water to the waves.

Drenched by the squall are towels beyond reach of high tide

Raindrops and sea spray become pellets in the wind,

assaulting, leveling, and staining once rutted, creamy sand,

now soaked and coated with a film of salt water.


The riled wind blows collapsible chairs into the water.

Swimmers struggle, surprised by a whirling current.

as concerned onlookers watch the battle from the sand.

Heads disappear beneath newly perturbed waves.

Swimmers resurface but are caught in a rip tide.


The trained and untrained dash into the tide.

A lifeguard calls her team before entering the water.

Faces chap in the mounting, salt-sharpened wind.

A chain of helpers lock arms, bracing against the current.

Teamwork hoists worn out bathers over the waves

from one link to another — all the way to sometimes-dry sand.


Chairs and umbrellas soon disappear from the sand.

If they remained, they’d be yanked into the trespassing tide

Umbrellas would implode and chairs shatter in these waves.

The fish will race hidden in the gray, frothing, overheated water.

TV and weather crews will arrive to keep audiences current.


Reporters’ hair and jackets will whip in the hurricane-force wind

News viewers will see storm surge where once they saw sand.

Onlookers, aware of the coming siege, will keep current

as vehicles flee this looming storm to form another tide.

rolling inland with rotating winds and slanted curtains of fresh water.

Offshore, only roofs will protrude from rivers swollen by rain waves.


Wind forms into a cyclone and out of bounds lifts the tide.

Sand bags are no match for displaced rain and river water.

Current aerial views show houses turned to matchsticks by waves.

Tough Love

To love is not an easy thing to do,

for love is often seen as what it’s not.

And yet, the quest to love we must renew.


Our fuzzy feelings lighten life, it’s true.

Alas, sustain them human souls cannot.

To love is not an easy thing to do.


More often love’s the harder tasks we do

than pleasant feeling bonds have sometimes brought

And yet, the quest to love we must renew.


The world’s imbued with life when love is true

and gives without receiving what it sought.

To love is not an easy thing to do.


This love considers needs of more than two,

and meeting wider needs is often fraught,

and yet, the quest to love we must renew.


Unease we must persist in going through,

and cozy postures all must cherish not.

To love is not an easy thing to do.

And yet, the quest to love we must renew.


The Many Forms of Flame

The human soul harbors an unseen flame,

a spark often given visible, tangible form

when minds, hands, and tools use their power

to take stone, wood, brick, and tile, and change

these materials into monuments to grace,

gifts offered despite a limited human view.

Sacred Scriptures shape and express the view

that to be human is to be animated by this flame

but also to need help, which some believers call grace,

to be enlightened, thus, to give the invisible light form

to take a wounded world and to continue striving to change

into a healed one, thanks to love, beauty, and truth’s power.

The places we gather give witness to this threefold power.

Of Divine Nature they express and shape a certain view.

Perhaps self-absorbed individuals they mean to change

into upward looking ones, but they can also fan a flame

of pride or blame in those who see communities that form

as places to discharge their disdain and not as vaults of grace

Such twisted souls in seconds turn a human sibling’s grace

of kindness into a bloody scene. They have the power

to rob gestures of welcome, to give them the form

of dangerous naïveté when we see them from the view

of a post-tragedy commentator. For other such souls, flame,

not a gun is the weapon of irreversible, agonizing change.

These arsonists fear the peaceful efforts to effect change

represented by certain simple, historic houses of grace.

Brick and wooden churches may be reduced to rubble by flame

but a structure fire alone cannot destroy the power

of community. In fact, loss often gives people a clearer view

of what gives the human spirit its most determined, noble form.

Unintentional destruction may also reveal this desired form.

From constructed to intangible beauty attentions change

and irreversible loss takes with it the youthful view

that what’s here today will be here tomorrow. It is grace

to see the folly of this view, though the teaching power

of loss doesn’t cool the burns to the bone of its flame.

Grace, we’ve seen, comes in far more than one form.

Change, though often coming suddenly, carries power.

View thoughtfully, therefore, the many forms of flame.


Lisa Rutledge writes poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. She has been published in Ancient PathsThe LegacyScarlet Leaf ReviewAdelaide Literary Magazine, WINK: Writers in the Know, and as part of The Voices Project.  Lisa lives in the Texas Panhandle and teaches writing at West Texas A&M University. Find her online at:

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