“. . . steeples, come to nothing, shape the sky”

by Jamison Koehler on March 22, 2010

This weekend I will be attending a poetry reading at the Renaissance Center in Amherst, Massachusetts in honor of my father, who turns 95 this month. Forty people will be reading from one of my father’s poetry collections.

In helping to prepare for the reading, I came across one of my father’s lesser known poems, one that I had never read before.  In a break from my normal practice on this blog, I would like to reproduce it here. The poem was written by a young Navy lieutenant standing on the bridge of a a U.S. destroyer, somewhere in the Pacific, right after the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. I think it is still relevant today.

The Compass

It turns through ten degrees,

a change

of continents.

Let those who take the wheel

on calm decks

white with salt


our errors in a time

the sides shook,

the bow was slow


the needle lost its mind.

And while I am at it:


He turns in space

as a planet turns

and his face

is terrible

of the miles he knows.

Time will not change

the look of things

though he comes

more often than the sun.

Finally, to end with something just  a little bit more uplifting:


I wake, and think

so this is how it comes,

no thunder, wind,

or windstorm’s

violence to rend

our lower nature,

only a presence.

Outlines are familiar:  light

was present yesterday.

Without event

The miracle is here.

Given the day,

let crystal loose

on me, to see

beyond the accident

of snow, this

brilliance touched

with rose.

All poems copyrighted by G. Stanley Koehler

One Comment on ““. . . steeples, come to nothing, shape the sky”

  1. Dear Mr. Koehler,
    I found your website as I was searching for a photograph of your father. The Chautauqua Writers Center is hoping to include his photo in a gallery of Chautauqua poets and writers being installed at the new Chautauqua Center for Literary Arts. Your father taught for the Chautauqua Writers Center over many summers and is still remembered fondly by many of our older members. Please extend our warmest wishes on the occasion of his 95th birthday and let him know that, if he would please send us a photograph, we would be proud to include him in our gallery. The photograph should be mailed to: Patricia Averbach, 21299 South Woodland Road, Shaker Heights, Ohio 44122, or sent electronically to: pataverbach@hotmail.com . Thank you and congratulations to you and your family on your dad’s milestone birthday.
    Pat Averbach, Vice President
    Chautauqua Literary Arts Friends

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