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What We’re Doing Here by Julie VanDerVeen Van Til


Just now

you turned your attention

from the blustery

fog flipping newspaper pages

strewn on the sidewalk’s edge to this




black on white

avoiding questions already posed by

the ocean chill in the air out there


by yellow flowered

weeds poking up through cement cracks


by a mild throb pulsing between your hairline and eyebrows

bent on reminding you the conversation you just ended isn’t over



I see what we’re doing here


the habitual




fixes your eyes

assures you an answer to the anxious what’s next


no worry just





now a page has slipped free from the stack


skipping over itself

brushing softly the side door of a black sedan

a lumbering woman detours toward the pages that remain

peers for a minute at flapping images like a moving picture show

then pivots to walk on


your phalanges and metacarpals continue the

scroll click slide

tensed in relentless circular motion

bits of pent up mental emotional spiritual


released and retracted


yo-yoed out and

back again


out and

back again


afraid really

afraid to be freed

from the gravity of distraction

an orbit of your own choosing


Let’s try something


Take the first finger and thumb of one hand

slide its skin

over the skin of the swiping hand



teasing cells

tingling nerves



I’m serious –

inch your way to the edge of this orbit

counteract your own force

swing your legs off the side of the spinning merry go round

and slide


slide right off this screen to

trip and skip over yourself down the sidewalk


Sure the gritty surface will

skin knees and bang up bones

but I bet

better questions

await you there than

what we’re doing here.


Rev. Julie VanDerVeen Van Til is a native Mid-westerner living in San Francisco as a pastor, coach, and mom of middle schoolers. She doesn’t claim to be a poet but embraces practices like this to keep her connected to her own soul as she helps others connect to theirs.



Julie VanDerVeen Van Til

Julie VanDerVeen Van Til is the pastor of Flossmoor Community Church in Flossmoor, Illinois. She and her family enjoy music, theater, books and travel. They especially enjoy exploring National Parks, interactive museums, and anyplace with water in the summertime. .


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