the sum of small things — book release

It’s finally here and I couldn’t be more pleased!

the sum of small things

The booklet featuring photography and poetry on a wide variety of topics: creative, challenging, introspective, uplifting–much like you’ve read on my feed for some time! Order yours today for $US 19.95 + s/h e-mail me at for information on how to receive your copy!


Photo credit (background to book): Olesya Grichina via


cursed identity

Who are we when

we argue endlessly
over semantics, numbing rhetoric
about what constitutes
legal and illegal

we blame the very persons
endangered by murder,
kidnapping, and rape
as the culprits, and

contentiously shout
at perfect strangers about
the criminality of parents
seeking refuge

label intentional departure
from this world, whether
in jail cell or hotel suite
a selfish act, or worse – deserved

Who are we when

we say there are laws,
we cannot violate
the president has said so —
and then there’s Romans 13 —

we say it’s all those people
across the political aisle — they
are to blame for actions
resulting from

policies we prematurely
brand as laws, but
could be revoked
with the stroke of a pen

before midnight —

before we recline
on luxurious sheets
in well designed beds, coddled
in climate controlled comfort,

before the brutalized feel another
blazing sunrise in flimsy tents
on dusty desert expanses
imprisoned for fleeing extermination

Who are we when

we join the president and attorney general
in Pilate’s meaningless hand-washing,
shrugging smug shoulders,
pointing fingers

at anyone – anything except our
misguided protectionism of
everything we’ve defined
as American safety

racial purity
valuing profits
over parenting

Who are we when

our pampered existence
is our greatest concern, if
it trumps mercy, hope, and
justice — a safe place for all

when yearning to breathe free
is criminalized, penalized,
world-wide welcome excised
by the Mother of Exiles

Who are we when

our profound greed,
our hoarding of what is
not ours to keep
closes our hearts,

harmonizes with our piously
interpreted scriptures, pretending –
yet again – that we are right,
they are punishable.

If this is us

then the peril is ours,
our benighted minds live in
murky darkness, our souls
sold to the angel of darkness,

for we have dulled our
senses — systematically refusing
to see, to feel, to hear
the cries of the least of these

we have brought a curse upon ourselves.


© Julia Penner-Zook, 2018
Photo Credit: The New York Times

invitation to dance


we move, sway,
in and out,
back and forth,
as if centripetal and centrifugal forces
pull, then release,
apart, then
draw us close
in Divine mystery.

we breathe in, exhale,
taut muscles relax,
eyes close as flaming red orb
slips motionless to muffled horizon.
the onset of darkness
no longer terrifies—
not in the arms
of the Divine—
swept into river’s swift current,
leaping with fire’s flames,
one with the un-namable.

this blend of rapture
and terror enfolds
without restriction
without entanglement
without oppression

as heads lift, then lower,
limbs leaping into mellowing dusk,
bodies bending in reverence,
faces glowing, unencumbered
we reach the invisible portal–
one with the un-tamable,
one with Transcendence.


© Julia Penner-Zook, 2018
Photo Credit: Stacey L. Rhoades; used with permission

at the close of another work week and the beginning of the different rhythm of a weekend, i invite you to become still, pay attention, open your heart and mind, and enter a sacred space.
what makes it sacred?
if we take the time to truly disengage from our hectic, noise saturated, electronically tethered lives, we become aware of the profoundly mysterious, yet calming, soothing, healing presence of the Divine.



let freedom roll

let freedom roll

a noose constricts
the hours of each
day, acrid judgments
sear her soul, imprison and
sentence her to

perpetual scrutiny,
contrived condemnation,
third-party intrusion
arising from nothing
more than

existence in open
places where she
and her children
have a home, but
no refuge.

she seeks out the
crevices between
realities, sheltering treasure
where it may thrive

while those
on the other side
laugh, shout, demand
without thought or

she watches, worries,
wrestles, wakens with
weary bone to chase
the blight from
red-lined confinement.

dignity defines her
work, her irrepressible
passion for life,
her children rocked,
danced, embraced, cajoled,

raised to be worthy of their
regal lineage of warriors
and queens, impenetrable
global family united in

your time is now.


© Julia Penner-Zook, 2018
Photo Credit: Steve Johnson via

A Mother’ s Day Tribute to all the women fighting for this generation and those yet to come. 


Mourning Glory

Utterly gutted, expended, every
reservoir siphoned dry,
the internal recesses of the soul
worn, torn, forlorn, every fiber
reaching for life.

Creative elan slowed
to a trickle, a dribble,
one weary drop feigning
a splash; no cache to plunder before
absolute depletion.

O glorious earth,
enigmatic energy, throbbing
pulse beneath my feet,
soil and shale, water and woodland,
tiny speck within the sprawling cosmos,

can you, despite your wounds
inflicted by unwary wanderers, still
offer solace, serenity, surety
that you will beckon earthlings
to find healing?

Or are your wounds–like mine–
too deep, strained, pained
to offer aid, our reciprocal
and collective bane extracting
final groans of desperation

from voiceless caverns–
hidden sanctuaries–still tempted
to deny our demise, grasping for
lifelines, hopeful signs, sacred shrines
to undo our final descent?

Will common human experience–inherent
concern for shared dwelling–drive
us into regions yet unexplored
to draw upon those inner deposits
beautifully pristine?

No effort too small,
none too great to expend on the
vibrancy of this planet,
mining the depths of each one’s
inner resources.


Here is my small contribution to Earth Day, having spent some time outside this afternoon enjoying the visit of the pictured demur mourning dove.

follow me on Instagram: @julia_penner_zook
© Julia Penner-Zook, 2018
Photo Credit: Julia Penner-Zook

Just a reminder: “the sum of small things,” a photography and poetry book–similar to what you see in this post–has JUST been released. Contact me at for details.

unrest & resurrection

bleeding and exhausted,
mercilessly taunted, agony
disclosing flayed flesh, weeping for
yet another one–now multitudes–gone,
anguish of loss entangles the heart.

unable to shuffle forward, blinded
by menacing image, deafened by
harrowing utterance, inconsolable cry
piercing through the night, a dagger slicing
through humanity’s dark struggle to survive

this unrest. this jagged edge–
once tender soul–is balancing
too many broken pieces, sheltering
uncounted mourning masses
invisibly within.

concealed assailant

suffocating, debilitating, confiscating all that
holds out hope. weight must be redistributed,
shifted, lifted from one to another,
allowing breath to return, water to
seep into cracked inner worlds.

can holy rest embrace beleaguered mortal,
earth’s womb welcome wounded warrior,
spirit anoint broken body, divine wind
touch the battered, the bruised, the forsaken
with resurrection?


In this week between Palm Sunday and Resurrection Sunday, we wrestle to make sense of the turbulence, the trauma, the torrents of injustice and balance it with the hope of healing, the prayer for peace, the vision of new life. We are called to live in this liminal place–looking intently on all that causes wounds in our lives (and our world), all the while allowing hope and love to heal and resurrect us.

follow me on Instagram: @julia_penner_zook
© Julia Penner-Zook, 2018
Photo Credit: Stacey L. Rhoades

“the sum of small things,” a photography and poetry book–similar to what you see in this post–has JUST been released. Contact me at for details.

the muse

mystical weaver of wisdom, worlds
caught in her cadence–
defying cursory commentary–
she’s neither devious nor divine,
not gregarious or gloomy,
far from frivolous, yet infusing
laughter into menacing storm.

with syllables soulfully sewn together,
she’s able to plumb
the depths, then soar to
precipitous heights, hovering
perilously above rapids,
she can dance atop
white water‘s snarl

and tread treacherous tightrope
with blisters on her feet and
suns in her eyes, watching
dreams die, freedoms flee,
compassion become a quaint
artifact, all while defying
taunting, confining cell.

she breathes both horror and hope
in single sigh, mourning
burnt flesh and punctured body,
still envisioning a world of fresh,
clear skies with expanding galaxies,
calling each traveler upward
toward untamed pinnacles.


This is a tribute to all poets who inspire–past and present. Without your voice, our world would be colorless, lifeless, visionless.

follow me on Instagram: @julia_penner_zook

© Julia Penner-Zook, 2018
Photo Credit: Tejas Prajapati via

In the coming days I will release a pre-publication booklet featuring photography and excerpts of longer poems – similar to this post. A more complete release is coming at a later date. Check back for details.