So Many Gifts

Happy BirthdayThere are so many gifts
Still unopened from your birthday,
There are so many hand-crafted presents
That have been sent to you by God.

—  Hafiz, excerpted from “So Many Gifts,”(trans. Daniel Ladinsky). From the book The Gift: Poems by Hafiz the Great Sufi Master, Penguin Compass, 1999.


The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness did not overcome it. 
—  John 1:5 (NRSV)

We invite you to spend time in contemplation with these words from wise ones. Then join in the conversation with your own poetic response.

You can enter into conversation with this text by adding your haiku response below.

About Margaret D. McGee


  1. treetop fog
    a walk between worlds
    out to the mailbox

  2. Marybeth Bland says:

    morning greeting
    my dog kisses my face
    a special gift

  3. Brad Offutt says:

    That passage from John’s very gnostic gospel is a head-scratcher. The original sorta means, “The light is shining in darkness and the darkness doesn’t get it.” Made me think of a recent news story about a man who unwrapped a wonderful gift; see below. It’s not a proper haiku at all, I know.

    blind cyclist’s tongue-clicks
    bring him safe through day and night –
    there is no darkness

  4. temperature drops —
    throughout the treetops

  5. CaroleAnn Lovin says:

    quiet gifts —
    red leaves dance down
    the sunbeam

    • CaroleAnn, I especially like the color and light in this haiku. I can see the red leaves, and the play of light and shadow as they fall through the sunbeam. I also like the juxtaposition between the quiet in the first line, and the movement in the 2nd and 3rd lines. Thanks!

  6. in the moonlight
    a rough tongue on my neck
    kitty cat love

  7. My friend is very frail and doesn’t get out much. To keep up his spirits I phone, send notes inclosing a newspaper clipping or a comic strip and I visit often.
    “Sweet Pea, are you home?” I call out.
    “Yeah, who is it? Come on in here,” he hollers.
    I peek around the corner. “It’s me.”
    “Oh, you. How did you get in here without me hearing the car? What are you doing sneaking around here? You quit that sneaking around here! What didja bring me this time?” he grumbles all in one breathy breath.
    “Potato soup”
    “I want nuts.”
    “Good! I have cashews and dried apricots.” I state as I put the goodies in the kitchen.
    “Don’t you touch anything in my kitchen now. Come in here and let’s talk.”
    I do as he says. I pull the ottoman over by his chair so we are blue eye to blue eye.
    “I suppose you roared in here in that fancy car of yours and scared off my widgeons. How many were there?” he asks.
    I don’t take the bait on the fancy car business instead I answer, “Seven What did the doctor say?”
    “Says I’ll live to be a hundred and ten. Let’s talk.”
    It is written in the book that I lose so we talk about election candidates, initiatives, taxes and welfare reform. He shakes his head and asks if I know what a burden it is for him to straighten me out in these matters. I hang my head in shame.
    It is time to go. I put out my hands; he grabs on. I wince at how soft his once work worn hands are. I kiss his pale thin cheek and tell him the potato soup is in the fridge. He grins and nods.
    As I close the door he shouts “Don’t you roar outta here in that fancy car of yours and scare off my widgeons, you hear?”

    an oak leaf
    in the pond
    trumpeter swans

    • I enjoy this use of dialogue ~ makes for an interesting haibun

    • Carolyn, once again you bring tears to my eyes with the haiku that caps this haibun. It’s something about the pairing of “widgeons” and “trumpeter swans.” This piece is full of life.
      One little nit-pick: I would cut “I state as” after the dried apricots, and just put the items in the fridge.

      • Thanks Margaret, I will delete “I state”. I have thought about that haiku for weeks.

  8. HAIBUN CCCXV: another
    The cold continues. I find myself so grateful for a warm space to call home. In the quiet of the morning I empty the dishwasher, make coffee, and then settle into my recliner as I wrap myself in a blanket. I read several passages. Bright light enters the room. The house stirs with life and we are off into another day.

    breakfast dishes in the sink
    on dinner dishes

    • Haikucircle, again I enjoy the simple direct language of your prose so much. I’m drawn into the quiet morning routine.

      In the haiku, I like the sound of the clock juxtaposed with the dishes piled in the sink. I do have a little trouble with “in the sink/on dinner dishes.” I had to read the in/on a few times before I “got it,” and the construction feels awkward to me. For me this works better:

      in the sink breakfast dishes
      on dinner dishes

      Though the current fashion is to have little or no punctuation within haiku lines, I’d be tempted to put a comma after “sink.”

      • I so appreciate your comment Margaret…I agree with the trouble you had with “in the sink/on dinner dishes” but as I think about it I actually like that the construction caused this pause/frustration…it adds to the chaos in my mind. I originally had the haiku structured as it is so the the words “breakfast dishes” were literally on “dinner dishes” ~ the comma issue also forced the wording as I initially wrote it

  9. leafless willows
    near the irrigation ditch
    catkins blooming

    • Carolyn, another of your classic pivot lines! I especially like “leafless willows” and the image of the irrigation ditch in this poem.

      • Many of the irrigation ditches have been contained in pipes now but willows still like grow where the ditches were. I like to walk the path along the open ditch in the city. It has lots of lavender along it.

  10. slender blade
    peeking out of the soil
    iris in waiting

    small plum tree
    bursting with pink blossoms
    spring fever

    • Thanks, Carolyn, for these hopeful images on this gray and gusty day. Now I’m looking outside with fresh interest. (Do you really have blossoms on your plum tree already?)

      • It isn’t my tree. It is a tree on Old Olympic Highway near Sequim. It has always been so small. I am fairly certain it is plum. We always thought it was a courageous little tree. It gave me boost when I saw it on Jan. 9.

        My Dutch iris are really pushing through quickly. They have always pushed through early but don’t bloom until later.

        The willows are bearing catkins all over now.

  11. Marybeth Bland says:

    Carolyn, thanks for bringing joy to my winter blues!

    Now down another path. My elderly parents are approaching 90. They live in a retirement community. My brother and his wife lived in New York , but are moving south to be closer to their new Grandbaby l live out westl so parents are going through their belongings and giving things away. My brother wants nothing.
    I am being sent letters and photos from long ago. One letter is from my great grandfather dated 1864

    Ink on parchment
    I hold in my hand
    a drummerr’s boy lament

    twenty dead
    please get me home

    • You are Welcome Marybeth.

      Wow it is exciting that you are getting pictures, letters, etc from your parents. It sounds very interest too.
      Thanks for sharing.

    • Marybeth, “ink on parchment” is a strong opening line in this poem, and “please get me home” is a strong ending. The date in your post, 1864, puts it in the Civil War, which brings the poignancy home.

  12. Brad Offutt says:

    My sister lives in the mid-west farmhouse that was our grandfather’s. Slowly, year into year, she is cleaning out and simplifying. One way to do this is to put stuff in boxes and FedEx them to me. Gotta admit, lots of it gets donated or disposed of. Some of it, though…

    father’s shoe-shine box
    in the corner to ensure
    he’s still somehow here

    • framed
      on the family room walls
      my fathers youth

      • Brad Offutt says:

        Carolyn, first I liked that your haiku made me stop and look at the pictures of my sister, brother-in-law, and others in my office. Then, you made me realize that the way we memorialize is changing, even for an old guy like me.

        my darling and kids
        always so close to my heart
        on my iphone

    • I agree with Marybeth — this poetic exchange between Brad & Carolyn touching on photographs, memories, and technology makes me smile. Thanks for the gifts.

  13. CaroleAnn Lovin says:

    Not sure which version works better. . . I’m leaning towards the first version myself. . .

    in spite of the wailing wind the candle flames


    in spite of the wind
    the gift
    of a candle flame

    • Yes, CaroleAnn, I agree with you and Marybeth — I like the first version better. I might think about cutting “wailing,” because when I see the word “wind,” I also hear the wind. And you know I always go for less & simpler if possible. But with or without wailing, I find that my heart lifts with the one-liner. The three-line poem is somehow telling a little too much.

      • CaroleAnn Lovin says:

        Thanks Margaret and Marybeth. . .
        Upon rereading the one-liner — after not reading it for a few days — I agree that taking out “wailing” works better. . . so my poem becomes the very simple:

        in spite of the wind the candle flames

  14. Marybeth Bland says:


    I also like the first one better

    I often spend a lot of time listening to music while I write, play with my dog, do my art work etc. when I write haikus it is about what I see. I realize to get fully in the moment I also need to listen.

    bells chime
    sound echoes in air
    I smile

    • Yes, Marybeth, I also need to remember to pay attention to the senses other than sight. I like the echoing bells in this poem.

      • Marybeth Bland says:


        In my notebook I wrote dances in air but here I posted echoes. I am not siure why I did that. Does one sound better than the other?

        Anyone have an answer

        • Marybeth, I prefer echoes to dances, because dances sounds a little too “poetic” to me, for haiku. In general haiku likes simpler, more direct language. Echo is a sound word, so requires less interpretation when applied to a bell’s sound. In haiku, that’s good.

  15. tender green shoots
    in the farmers field
    snowbirding swans

  16. budding
    spring sap rising

    • Carolyn, thanks for the forsythia. Even though we do have forsythia out here in the PNW, any mention of it always takes me back to Ohio, where I grew up and forsythia was a very common garden shrub. That’s what’s so powerful about seasonal references. Iconic season images (like forsythia in early spring) evoke feelings from deep in our pasts, because seasons repeat again and again through all of life.

  17. Marybeth Bland says:

    in the cold I wait for spring

  18. Brad Offutt says:

    We’re in Arizona for a painting workshop. Everything is so relative.

    mid-seventies sun
    burns Camelback mountain red –
    locals say it’s cold

    • Brad, you’re right, everything is so relative. Around here, I’m always amazed to see young people walking in town & dressed in t-shirts and flip-flops, as if it’s mid-summer instead of mid-winter. I assume that they grew up here and their metabolisms are acclimated to 40 degrees and overcast! In the meantime, I’m walking the same sidewalk in 4 layers and a wooly hat!

  19. Marybeth Bland says:

    My parents are pushing 90 years old. They live in New Jersey at a retirement community. I spoke with then today . My mom said they have 8 inches. Young people are driving around asking $35 to shovel driveways. My mom turns then away, saying where is she going to go?

    Snow everywhere
    they stay home
    watching movies

  20. Marybeth Bland says:

    Sun touches my face
    I dream of spring
    bundled in a coat

  21. Marybeth Bland says:

    Rereading this, which I wrote very fast. , I want ti change it

    Bundled in a coat
    sun touches my face
    I dream of spring

    • I like this moment, Marybeth. What do you think of this slight revision? I shortened the 3rd line to give it more of a “turn” from the first two:

      bundled in a coat
      the sun touches my face–
      spring dreams

      I’m also a little bothered by the construction of the first two lines … grammatically, they are structured as though it’s the sun bundled in a coat. Of course I know that’s not what you mean, but if it were prose, it’d be something like this: “I am bundled in a coat, and the sun touches my face.” That doesn’t work in the poem … but you see what I mean. One way would be to cut the coat, and get the cold in another way:

      the sun
      touches my cold face–
      spring dreams

      Or maybe you have a better way.

      • Marybeth Bland says:


        I see your point . I create in a rush these days. Friday often disappears returning with things he should not have.

        Can we get rid of the word the?

        First line

        Touches my face-
        spring dreams

        • Sure — I like that, Marybeth.

        • Brad Offutt says:

          Marybeth, I like the whole moment and really like your last version. Now as to Friday – we know what a trial this can be, but we know why it’s happening too:

          slipper or hairbrush
          carried by new puppy friend –
          love in the bringing

  22. Marybeth Bland says:

    thanks Brad

    one blue sneaker
    a puppy chew toy

  23. Marybeth Bland says:

    I should change the first line

    my blue sneaker
    a pulpy chew toy
    so delifhtful

  24. Marybeth Bland says:

    I really mistyped

    My blue sneaker
    a puppy chew toy
    so delightful

  25. Once again I’m entertained & inspired by reading back over January’s haiku and comments. Thank you for the gift of you creative expression!

    And … for those of you who follow only in the comment stream, this is to let you know that I just posted a new Lectio+Haiku for February. You’ll find it at the top of the list on the Courtyard’s main page:

    To receive notification of comments to the new posting, make a comment on that post and click the “Notify me of follow-up comments by email” box BEFORE clicking Post Comment.

    I look forward to new poetry!