If We Knew It All . . .

Where do dreams go when we wake up?
Where does time go as we age?
Why did William Shakespeare make up
Plays we still perform on stage?

Sometimes questions beg an answer—
Questions trite or quite profound.
Where is Waldo? Cures for cancer?
Sometimes answers can’t be found.

Could there—somewhere—be a list for
Answers yet to be unmasked?
Answers that indeed exist for
Every question that is asked?

Answers that will be uncovered,
Ending every mystery.
Every truth and fact discovered,
Every unknown thing set free!

Would these answers (here I’m guessing)
Make us better? Make things worse?
Would all knowledge be a blessing?
Or turn out to be a curse?

Much of what we know already
Seems to be a two-edged sword.
Like Pandora’s Box, a steady
Source of ills we can’t afford.

Knowledge newly gained can seem to
Promise us Utopia.
Then turn out to be a scheme to
Create more dystopia.

If we knew it all we’d start to
Look an awful lot like gods.
But, unless we had God’s heart to
Love, we’d be omniscient frauds.

Ignorance, they say, is bliss, as
I, for one, believe is true.
What’s unknown I’ll never miss, as
Long as I know God and you.



Nothing Doing

Is doing nothing wasting time?
Or is it worthy of respect?
A meditative state sublime?
Or something highly circumspect?

There always is so much to do,
To put it off seems wrong somehow.
With deadlines quickly coming due
I’d much prefer to do things now.

The pressure’s on, I’m feeling stressed.
Enough’s enough! I really need
To take a weekly sabbath rest;
And take time off to sit and read.

Or maybe I could stand and stare
At simple things like sea and sky,
Or smell the roses, breathe the air,
Rethink my life by asking “Why?”

Now that I think of it, it seems
That doing nothing’s busy too,
But not with busy-work, but dreams
Of things to “be” instead of “do.”

Some things can’t wait, and must be done,
But life is better walked than run,
So take a break, enjoy some fun;
Embrace instead of chase the sun.



James A. Tweedie is a retired pastor living in Long Beach, Washington. He has written and published six novels, one collection of short stories, and three collections of poetry including Mostly Sonnets, all with Dunecrest Press. His poems have been published nationally and internationally in The Lyric, Poetry Salzburg (Austria) Review, California Quarterly, Asses of Parnassus, Lighten Up Online, Better than Starbucks, WestWard Quarterly, Society of Classical Poets, and The Chained Muse.

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29 Responses

  1. Julian D. Woodruff

    Both well put, Mr. Tweedie. I like your ease with trochees and feminine rhymes. Your all-rhyming 4train in the 2nd makes a nice, emphatic conclusion.

    • James A. Tweedie

      Ty, Julian. I’m glad that you noticed and liked the closing 4train (or double couplet?) at the end of the doing nothing poem. You have a good eye for such details.

  2. Brian Yapko

    James, both of these are not only very fine poems but fun and thought-provoking as well. I really like your meditation on the value of knowledge — and its limitations and, like Julian, I’m very impressed by your mastery of feminine rhymes. I also very much like your “Nothing Doing” poem. The title itself is witty but the substance of the work manages to be both thought-provoking and charming. Both are a very enjoyable read!

    • James A. Tweedie

      Ty, Brian. When I submitted these two poems I mentioned to Evan that they are deceptively simple poems insofar as the rhyme, meter and vocabulary are concerned but existential as regards the questions they raise and address relative to our seemingly unquenchable thirst for knowledge and for meaning in life.

  3. James Sale

    Fine poems, James; technically adroit. And for us who know, we really know that we know nothing, so this is really very well put.

    • James A. Tweedie

      Ty James . Of all the people in the room I should think that you would be the least likely to be found doing nothing! Some of us have more than one iron in our fire. You, in contrast, clearly have several fires going at the same time!


      • James Sale

        Thanks James – Maybe – but it’s always difficult to know what loads other people are carrying, so I avoid comparing in that sense since it has a dangerous Pelagian tendency to self-congratulate! But I can say, for the benefit of your readers, I consciously make a lot of time to do ‘nothing’, since I know that ‘nothing’ and ‘nowhere’ are when the Muse appears. I recommend everybody do it – which is, to stop doing!

  4. Jeff Eardley

    Mr Tweedie, a splendid read today. The first had me thinking of your Donald Rumsfeld and his “unknown unknowns” speech on the Iraq war. I love “Utopia/dystopia” and “bliss, as” with “miss, as” is very clever. The second had me refraining from pulling out my many garden weeds and sitting down to listen to and watch the bees, which is exactly what I am doing right now.
    Thank you again.

    • James A. Tweedie

      Funny reference. I have a friend who was a speech writer for Rumsfeld at the time. I wonder if my friendwrote that speech or if the phrase you cited was an ad lib by Rumsfeld . . .

    • James A. Tweedie

      Ty, David. Your affirming comment reminds me of the old slogan of the Petaluma, CA dairy association: “Our cows are outstanding in their field.”

  5. Cynthia Erlandson

    I love the thoughts here, as well as the way they are expressed! The rhymes in lines 1 and 3 of the last three verses of “If We Knew It All…” (“seem to / “scheme to”, etc.) fascinated me so much that I went back to the Rhyme chapter of Timothy Steele’s “All the Fun’s in How You Say a Thing” to see if it has a name. Apparently it’s called “mosaic rhyme” when a rhyme is composed of more than one word. Very fun!

    • James A. Tweedie

      Yes, Cynthia! Everything seems to have a name except for some of the clever creations by folks like C.B. and Susan. And if there is any doubt in such matters we are fortunate to have Dr. S to bring us up to speed and/or set us straight!

  6. Paul Freeman

    Thanks for the reads.

    I particularly enjoyed Nothing Doing.

    Oh, and it was good to see (and hear) you zooming in to Winona last week.

  7. James A. Tweedie

    Thanks Paul, it’s the first time (in three tries) to have a sonnet chosen by the Faust sonnet contest. I was interested to see that most of the winners were of what I would term “alternative” form sonnets—all with 14 lines but so many with blank verse, loose or scattered rhyme, loose pentameter and inconsistent iambs and trochees. They may not have all been formal sonnets but they were all good poetry and they were all read well, which was a pleasant surprise. Thanks for tuning in! And I’m glad that you like doing nothing!

    • Paul Freeman

      The sonnets were impressive and I’m glad Melissa Maxwell read mine – she was excellent. There was one about a native American flute that was my favourite – after yours, of course.

      I was a Laureate’s choice two years ago, when I first entered with Winding Down, a reverse sonnet I wrote on a pub receipt standing at the bar.

      The competition is very stiff, so doubly well done.

  8. Margaret Coats

    James, if we think we were created to know, love, and serve God, the human search for knowledge and for meaning are naturally related. You may have wanted to say this in a deceptively light way, but you get there fairly quickly in “If We Knew It All.” Omniscience exists, and we don’t need to tax ourselves with expressing the answer to every question if we know Him. And perhaps paradoxically, this gives us a delightful freedom for contemplation even in the midst of action. I wholehearted agree with you that the rhyme here is “deceptively simple.” To make it look that way, in colloquial vocabulary, takes very considerable poetic skill.

    • James A. Tweedie

      Margaret. As usual you are spot on with your comments which, in part, remind me of the Mission Statement we drafted for the congregation I served in Hawaii: “To glorify God; To know and serve Jesus Christ: and To live and share his good news.” And to always do this, as you point out, in love! God put two trees in Eden, the forbidden tree was the knowledge of Good and Evil. The other tree, which was “knowledge,” was not forbidden. Even so, as you say, if we cannot know everything, it is good to know (and trust) the One who does!

      • Peter Hartley

        James – two wonderful examples of homiletic poetry, the first additionally containing more female rhymes than you could shake a stick at, whatever that means, and so plethoric in its superabundance as to be witty as well as just plain clever. The metre, as we always expect from you, is faultless too, and makes it easy to read correctly at the first attempt. I like the trusting statement at the end of the first poem, that for all that we don’t know we needn’t worry because God will remedy the shortfall in our knowledge and look after us. Ignorance is indeed bliss (but that doesn’t mean it’s OK to sit on an electric fence with impunity because we can’t read the warning notice). In the second poem thank you for letting me know, and so convincingly, that when I’m doing nothing I’m not just wasting time, because at worst I’m dreaming and at best I’m COGITATING, and both mean that I’m doing something. I think therefore I am. Do we ever stop thinking in all our waking hours? Do we ever stop dreaming when we are asleep? I don’t know, but this poem has stopped me feeling guilty about giving my brain a rest, delivered in a medium that is far more enjoyable to absorb than a boring sermon.

  9. James A. Tweedie


    When I lived and pastored in Adelaide, Australia for a year back in 1984-85, as an exotic foreigner I was invited to speak at a number of community organizations and service clubs such as Rotary, Kiwanis, and Probus. In the U.S. such clubs generally say “Thank you” by giving a token gift like a letter opener with the organizations logo on it. In British tradition the thank you is expressed by having the club secretary stand and read or otherwise make a statement that summarizes what the speaker has said. To me, this was the highest compliment because it affirmed that at least one club member listened and paid attention to what was said as well as asserting that the presentation was intelligible, understood and, by implication, enjoyed and appreciated.

    Your comment (and the other comments in response to these poems) do indeed remind me of this wonderful way of saying “Thank you.” You all took the time to listen, reflect and respond—gifts that I value far more than a dozen letter openers!

  10. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    James, I really do believe ignorance may be bliss. I know too much for my own sanity! hehe. I also love the idea of embracing instead of chasing the sun… I’d rather expend my energy on basking in the warm glow of solar joy than chasing after it… that’s why I live in Texas. 😉 Thank you very much for these beautiful poems.

  11. David Watt

    James, I really enjoyed the truths described in each poem, and the skillful manner in which you presented these truths. Your first poem brings to mind Hamlet’s: ‘There are more things in heaven and earth.’
    Thanks also for the reminder that we should slow down and enjoy the present.

  12. Cheryl Corey

    Congratulations on your recent honorary placement in the Maria Faust sonnet contest. I also entered the contest, but failed to place. Still, a contest with a deadline is always a good way to challenge yourself.

    • James A. Tweedie

      Why thank you, Corey. As I mentioned above, this was my third year submitting and first time selected. Hope springs eternal!

      • James A. Tweedie

        Obviously I should have said “Ms. Corey” or simply Cheryl!


  13. Satyananda Sarangi

    Greetings Mr. Tweedie!

    I found both the poems skillful – more than that I felt the lines had an underlying truth about them. Effortless and crisp. My weekend is made.

    Thanks. Best Wishes.

    • James A. Tweedie

      Ty, S.S., These poem do express truth as I have seen it play out in others people’s lives and and as I have experienced it in my own.

  14. Daniel Kemper

    I enjoyed the craft of these a great deal. The latter poem reminded me of Lao-Tzu: The sage does nothing and so leaves nothing undone. The former reminds me that our imaginations, much celebrated in this culture over faith, are almost always wrong and almost always have no memory of those failures.


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