About Me

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Plano, Texas, United States
The Book, The Burial, by R. Penman Smith is available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and directly from Tate Publishing. The Burial is a Spiritual Thriller with a dark twist and a redemptive outcome. The story springs out personal experience; ‘write what you know about’. Those who are comfortable with fantasy and are not afraid of the reality of the spiritual warfare inherent in Christian life will love this book.

SecularSacred and Nonsense

Imagination is the faculty through which we discover the world around us, both the world we see, and that other unseen world that hovers on the fringe of sight. Love, joy and laughter, poetry and prose, are the gifts through which we approach that complex world. Through the gift of imagination we have stepped into an ever flowing river where the realm of Faerie touches Middle Earth.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Upon a Starry Night

How often in the midnight hours I have risen in the dark,
when no flame was seen, no, not one spark.
In the dark I have walked the winding halls,
one hand upon the walls, out through the portals
and stood upon the gently sloping lawn. 

The sky was bright
with a myriad, myriad, starry lights
upon the overarching vault, and
each reflected in the pool below. 

Zephyr breezes stirred the waters,
the lilies danced, and
dancing upon the broad lily leaves
danced other lights,
not starry lights, but faery lights. 

As I drew near their slender silvan forms
I did perceive though unperceived.
Closer stepped I cautiously
but perceiving me each turned and courteously did bow,
then vanished westward from my sight
leaving naught behind but the tintinnabulation
of their crystal laughter chiming in the air.   

As I stood listening upon the lawn,
the eastern sky began to lighten
and the strong Sun rose mightily to warm the earth. 
The morning air was filled with birdsong;
a thousand, thousand, meadow larks
singing praise to their Creator,
and one old jackdaw croaked his delight;
yet mingled through the birdsong,
chiming faery laughter could be heard.

Imagination is the faculty through which we discover that other world around us. As for those of us sensitive to the bright realm of Faerie, we do not create it, nor did our forbearers create it, we have discovered it and through the gift of the faculty of imagination we have stepped into an ever flowing river where the realm of Faerie touches Middle Earth.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Battle of Maldon

[The following is for my own entertainment, and perhaps the entertainment of a very limited number of readers. The original poem, The Battle of Maldon, is a late Medieval poem reflecting the time of Viking invasion in England].

The Battle of Maldon

Manuscript: British Library, MS Cotton Otho A.xii (was partially destroyed by fire in 1731). The printed text of Thomas Hearne (1726) remained until recently the only known source for the poem. The Poem was attributed to the Monks of Ely. The beginning and the end of the poem were missing, but I have taken the considerable liberty of filling in the missing portion with my own addition,


I, Dom Siggeswick, lay brother
of Beesleigh Priory sing this lay.
I was but young when I stood boldly
upon the cold blood soaked strand.
Now my life is old and I am grey.
I sing a gryrelode sum of the days                  [terrible song]
of my liege Lord Aethelred.
I and my brother Sigebyhrt
We were fyrd warriors in the battle                [fyrd = army]
with seamen from the ashwood ships.
They came from the sea telling their lies,
promising us mercy for gold and for rings.
We rode fast from the shire-moot
to the long strand by the shore.
Byrhtnoth Aethelred's thegn                           thegn = retainer]
knew well that the oaths sworn
by seamen soon [Original text starts]: would be broken.
Then he commanded each young man
To leave his horse, to drive it far off,
and to go forth, with mind turned
to strong hands and good thoughts.
Then Offa's kinsman first discovered
that the great earl suffered no slackness;
he let from his hand, then, loved one fly,
hawk to the holt, and he stepped to battle.
So one could know that the lad wished not
to weaken in war, when he seized weapons.
And as for him, Eadric would follow his prince,
his lord to the fight; he bore forth, then,
spear to the battle. He had good thought
as long as he with hands could hold
board and bright sword: his boast he performed
when to the fight he came with his lord.
Then Byrhtnoth began to array men there,
rode and gave counsel, taught warriors
how they must stand and that stead hold,
bade them their round-shields rightly hold
fast with hands, not at all frightened.

…. [As the earl is slain and the battle nearly lost…]

Byrhtwold spoke, raised his shield--
he was an old retainer--shook his ash-spear;
full boldly he taught warriors:
"Thought must be the harder, heart be the keener,
mind must be the greater, while our strength lessens.
Here lies our prince all hewn,
good one on grit. He may always mourn
who from this war-play thinks now to turn.
My life is old: I will not away;
but I myself beside my lord,
by so loved a man, think to lie."
So Aethelgar's son emboldened them all,
Godric to battle. Often he let spear,
slaughter-spear, speed into those Vikings;
so among folk he went first,
hewed and humbled, until he in fight fell.
This was not the Godric who fled from battle.

[My added conclusion]:
Great was the slaughter, and great was the grief
Of our women who came to bury their dead,
and I lay astonied pierced through in pain
longing for my lord and the days that never
can be again.  Nothing can fill the longing,
or cover the shame when heroes are dead.

[Probably the most significant line is Byrhtwold’s declaration of loyalty until death.
"Thought must be the harder, heart be the keener,
mind must be the greater, while our strength lessens.]

Original Translation copyright © 1982, Jonathan A. Glenn

Additions copyright © 2008, R. Penman Smith

Monday, September 5, 2016



1974 Murder
On the Orient Express;
In the Railway Station
Oriental sumptuousness,
Travelers and Peddlers.

We traveled once, Diana and I,
From Venice to Zurich
By Overnight Express,
Cabinette, silver service,
And linen tablecloths.
Curried chicken and white rice
And the Alps gliding
Majestically by.

“Mr. Ratchet has been frontally stabbed,
Twelve times.”
But not on our train.

On our train, love,
And precious memories;
Along the canal in Venice
Roasted sparrow and fried sardines,
As the gondolas glide swiftly by.
And in Zurich an Oompah Band
In the hotel basement,
And in a small estaminet
Along the street,
Champignons sur du pain grille.

While Wretched Ratchet
Is Wretchedly murdered
By twelve good men and true.
But that was on the other train,
And all the while we walked
Hand in hand
Along the streets of Zurich.

Sunday, August 28, 2016


The Nature of Love

The four loves, affection; brotherly love; eros, or intimacy; and agapé, the highest love, all flow down mingled, undifferentiated from the God of love, in each experience in different measures, now emphasizing one love, and then another.  In the New Testament agapé is made known to us in that Christ Jesus died for us, in action first, and only secondarily in emotionality.  Agapé, like its Old Testament counterpart chesed, or steadfast love, is known in the regenerative and creative, unmerited, therefore grace filled acts of God reaching out to heal and transform us.  This agapé is the dynamic energy behind all other loves and behind all our enfleshed experiences of loving.  In every act of love the Incarnation is at work, God who is love making himself manifest in us, in our affection, our brotherly love, our eros, all alike empowered by agapé, and God is Agapé.

In Romantic Love, the love of husband and wife, this love is enfleshed in a unique and special way. In Romantic Love we see in human flesh, in human hearts and minds and wills a revelation of the redemptive love of Christ Jesus for his bride the Church; but the Church purified and made clean by his blood, without blemish, without spot or wrinkle.

The revelation, the visible and tangible manifestation of this love, a love of “terrible aspect” is known by us in humble simplicity.  In the meeting of our eyes, the touch of our hands, in moments quiet or jubilant, and in passionate embrace, the very God of love dares to make himself known.

On the Theology of Romantic Love

Brightly shines the morning light my own true love,
The world is freshening with the morning dew.
By the magnolia softly coos the dove,
When you’re with me my love, and I’m with you.
All God’s gracious gifts flow from heaven above,
Blessings in abundance, love gifts not too few,
Our hearts are open and our hearts are true.
God’s love in us is an ever flowing love,
Flowing from the tumultuous love of God,
From Father, Son and Holy Spirit, our God,
A torrent of God’s love in us enfleshed.
Side by side and hand in hand with Him we walk,
In the cool of the evening we three talk.

Bread and Butter Loves

Bread and butter loves above all other loves,
The stuff of every day give and take,
Outlast the show and flash of lesser loves,
Shallow loves that make hearts bend and break.
Fond affection, the first of all the loves,
The love of brother for brother which none can fake,
Sweet Eros the fuel of all romantic loves,
God’s pure love from Him who died for our sake,
All loves in an indissoluble bond
Mingle together in the human heart,
Loves given, loves to which our hearts respond,
All melded together with sublime art,
In every day bread and butter love.
All the loves flow down freely from above.

At the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam

Along the beach wavelets lap the pebbled shore,
White gulls rise clamouring in the morning air.
When we’re together all is bright and fair.
Who could ask, my dear, for anything more?
Vincent’s boats rest upon the sandy shore,
Mediterranean light in glowing air,
Clear radiance, brilliance de la Mer.
Gazing, we stand upon a marble floor
Our eyes glancing from picture to picture;
The yellow house sits on a corner at Arles,
Yellow bed, yellow chairs, simple furniture;
A pink peach tree, and a wheatfield all gnarls.
All truth and beauty flow from God above
Poured forth in our hearts from the God of love.

Wondelone: Desire and Fulfillment

There is a delight hidden in desire.
There is a yearning strong each lover knows.
Too easy conquest disappointment sows.
There is a yearning that sets the heart afire.
There is a wooing that flows from desire
That enflames the heart as each lover knows,
That reveals the heart and all its nature shows
Fanning the bright flames of the heart on fire.
Such yearnings and wooing bear fruition
When each lover and beloved know themselves
As whole, yet each the other gladly serves
Without dissembling or diminution.
Blessed the lovers who belong to each other

And covenant to love one another.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The Blueberry Seller

Route 1 hugs much of the shore line along the south east coast of Maine. Here and there small harbour towns are interspersed with stretches of wild woods. Here you will see the aspen, the birch, the red maples and the sugar maples, several types of oaks, the white and red pines, the spruces, balsam fir and others.

It was on one such stretch where the woods crowded close to edge of the road that I began to notice people selling something out of the trunks of cars and the back of pickup trucks. At last I saw a sign. “Bluberrys” it said. I slowed down and pulled over by a weathered beaten old Ford pickup and I got out to take a look.

The berry seller was a stocky individual about my height, perhaps a little taller, but there was something odd, almost menacing about him. He snorted almost like tuning up his voice and addressed me in a growly sort of voice, “Berries?” His little brown eyes narrowed with the apparent intensity of attempted thought.

“How much” I asked?

“Three dollars a pint, five dollars, two pints,” he growled.

The berry seller was immense, at least 400 pounds or more. Black hair sprouted profusely from the neck of his t-shirt. One very hairy arm sported a new tattoo, the smiling image of Smokey the Bear. The arm looked like it had been shaved in order to accommodate the tattoo.

I produced a five dollar bill and he motioned towards the back of the pickup, “Which pints you want?” The berry seller was apparently friendly, even affable, but thoroughly alarming. He looked very much like a bear, he sounded like a bear would if a bear could talk, he smelled like a bear. His feet were stuffed into big black rubber boots, his hands were clad in heavy duty work gloves. His face was clean shaven, but perhaps that isn’t really a good description. His shaving job was a little rough and patchy and left much to be desired. His nose was large, flat, and almost looked like black that had been powdered with mild yellow pollen.

I looked at the tiny blueberries, at least most of them were blue, but scattered among them was a liberal quantity of small leaves, green berries, and broken stems. Stupidly I asked, “Are they washed?”

His large face momentarily glazed over with apparent guilt, or was it just discomfort? “They ain’t got bug sprays on ‘em. Don’t wash ‘em until just before you eat ‘em, they go mouldy. Then he smiled, his honest face reflecting a simple sincerity, almost a yearning to be believed and accepted.

Hurriedly I picked out two pints and he shoved them into a small plastic grocery bag and passed them to me. As we moved slowly away I looked in the rearview mirror. He had taken the glove off of one very hairy hand with long black nails, pulled up his t-shirt to reveal the dense black hair on his belly and was unconcernedly scratching himself.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016


It was only a fleeting image.  A shadow imposed upon the wall in front of me as I walked through the lobby and approached the stairway to the upper landing.  As I drew closer to the wall my shadow, bobbing slightly with every step, grew steadily larger.  Suddenly another shadow, that of a woman with a rolling gate, appeared on the wall partially super-imposed on my shadow.  

I grasped the handle of the stairway door, turned slightly and looked behind me as I opened the door.  There was no one there, only a shadow with a rolling gate projected upon the wall.  As I opened the door the shadow seemed to pass silently through the wall.

Was the shadow real?  Certainly it was, but it was cast upon the wall by no physical presence.  It had not intended to be seen, in all probability it did not even know that it was seen; and it wasn’t in the slightest interested in me.

Here an odd question arises.  Perhaps, in the face of greater realities, I am a shadow living in a land of shadows, and that other shadow was not, in truth, truly a shadow, but something in that realm of different realities, more substantial than me.

Such stories tap our fear of the unknown, our fear of otherness.  Closing the stairway door, there is a momentary twinge, a small touch of irrational fear; but something else also happened in that instant.  Just as the door was closing I looked further back into the lobby and fleetingly saw a woman with a rolling gate entering through the lobby door.  In that instant I was given the choice of reality or illusion.  I chose the reality. 

But the point still remains.  C. S. Lewis tells us that we live in the Shadowlands, and it is not until we stand on heaven’s ground that we become truly real.  There are things, many things, more real than we, and all our lives lived in grace are lives being transformed in that greater reality.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

A Story from the Parish Bestiary

A Memoir: There many kinds of people in a parish church and all of them are in transition. Some are on their way to becoming saints, and others becoming quite the opposite. I give you Serpent Lady, an outwardly and moderately attractive business woman and a leader of one of our small groups.

            I can be a bit of a bulldog as well as a defender of lost and lonely sheep. Out of a legitimate concern I had invited the Serpent Lady to talk with me in my study because one of those lost and lonely sheep had expressed his grief that Serpent Lady had turned his small support group into a predatorial pack that fed upon juicy tidbits of carrion gossip. 

When I confront her I am quickly informed that it is none of my business, it is her group, her Church; meaning dismissively, not my Church and not God’s either. She is the center of her world. She once shared her renewal weekend with a large group in the church. She had just had a wonderful experience she said, “I was so loved. Everybody served me. It was so wonderful, it was all about me, all about me.”

All the time we talk she sits quartered away from me with her head turned somewhat in my direction. When I challenge her the skin on the back of her hands becomes faintly wrinkled, and gradually takes on a greenish grey hue. She draws the upper part of her body back away from me. Beneath her heavy lidded eyes something peeps out, the eyes flitting back and forth, never quite meeting mine, resting momentarily on an apparently barren upper corner of the room, barren except for a motionless echoing shadow. 

As I challenge her, her face tilts backwards and slightly up, her mouth open with a half inch between her lower and upper teeth and her lips pull back in a grimace. It is then that I notice the fangs as her head tilts back away from me. Retrospectively I realized that I was looking at a viper getting ready to strike. Is it only my imagination, or is it something else? The fanged gesture would be threatening if I did not see it for what it is. 

Silently I say to her, “I see you.” She does not mean to be seen. She only means to threaten on a subconscious level. By grace we will handle serpents. The time will come.  Get the forked stick. Pin it down and milk its venom. Others will need an antidote.

            Later I try to duplicate that grimace in a mirror but I wasn’t even able to come close. “And strange things sal follow them that believe…they sal take up vipers; and if perhaps they drink any deidly draught, it sal be nay ill to them” (Mk. 16:17-18, Braid Scots New Testament paraphrased).