The body shrinks forward as life halves,
then quarters, diminishing itself

by half and half again
leaving something


to be
cut in





Verdugo Mountain Devotional

Jerusalem’s mountains surround her and
God surrounds his people now and forevermore.
                                                       Psalm 125:2

Clouds, like columns of smoke,
condense earthward, ascend again,
from umber and brittle stubble,
worn trails, crags,
a random saguaro cactus,
all awaiting rain
that won’t come
for two days more.

Late afternoon
and these hills
are sunlit transformations
of royal golden velvet
carelessly draped
over a sleeping child.

The Santa Anas swing wildly
roiling valley and hills,
rendering air a balm of eucalyptus,
amidst strips of bark, twigs, and leaves,
shattered and scattered.

Wring goodness from a ring of mountains.
Enwrap me in soft robes of green grass.

Release clouds of incense,
fragrant with innocence.

Surround, oh Lord, surround me.
In this valley, surround me.


Alan Toltzis is the author of 49 Aspects of Human Emotion and The Last Commandment. He has published in numerous print and online journals including, The Wax Paper, Hummingbird, IthacaLit, Hedgerow, North of Oxford, and Right Hand Pointing and is a contributing editor for The Saturday Poetry Series at As It Ought to Be. Find him online at and follow him on Twitter @ToltzisAlan.