We who are alive

Checking on the gifts
that still have not arrived,
I spied Hannah on her roof
admiring the proud sunset.
This, all, the perfect metaphor
for the last night of advent.
You don’t know when
what-you-need will arrive, but,
in the precious gift of waiting,
you must be new, renew yourself.
So speak truth, no matter how hard,
take chances, no matter how daunting,
dare to love, even when you’re
not sure loving is called for.
Risk making mistakes, and indeed,
make them. Walk toward challenge,
don’t ignore ease and simplicity.
Bandage your own wounds,
extend yourself with welcome.
Step right up to the threshold,
walk through the doors you have,
until now, refused to enter.
Create your own saving,
stir your own mercy, willingly
receive the grace of God
which is always coming your way.

Be strong and courageous.

My next door neighbor just came over
to pick up his family’s Christmas treats.
He seems to have grown since the last time
I saw him a few weeks ago, taller,
more handsome, his jaw stronger, more pronounced.
We are always commenting about the ways
young people change – you look so much bigger,
so much taller, so much older and mature.
What if we had that same love and enthusiasm
for us as adults? My, you look so much more
relaxed, energized, faithful. I love the way
you are more well-rounded and balanced.
Wow, your hair is kinkier now. Awesome.

Change is part of the beauty of youth,
then it is tossed aside as we long for security.

I never look at the midday sun and rave about
its glory – that only happens upon rising or falling.
And snow, it’s just an inconvenience on the ground,
but when snowflakes flutter from the clouds, we can
barely restrain our glee. We’re drawn to things
in transition, we’re captivated and appreciative.
Think about what Jesus says when he becomes a man.
Drop your nets, seek, knock, enter the city,
do not be anxious. Jesus asks us to change,
knows that change is the path to truth and glory.
This is the advent blessing I grant to me and you
this day: Love your gray hair, those wrinkles
around your eyes. Be thankful for the way the years
have softened your heart, strengthened your voice.
Count every age spot, especially the ones that
will come tomorrow and the next day. You are
ripening, child of god. Finally, ripening to
the person I want and need you to be.

A light to my path

The cars whizzed past me on the edge
of the cross walk, even though law
would demand that they come to a stop.
I don’t know where they were going,
to the hospital to do their work
or to check on a failing relative,
but since I was just walking to Puck’s
for some butternut squash soup,
it did not matter. I waited.
And when it was finally time to cross,
I did so deliberately, one step at a time.
Several physicians flooded by, then an old man
who beat me by half the length of the walkway.

I know we’re supposed to be feeling
the Christmas spirit by now, and I surely
should be warming to it because of this writing.
But honestly, it’s not there yet,
the flutter, the calling. A few more days,
but it still feels like September to me.
Where the heck is the baby? Still
gestating, embryonic, I can’t feel
his kick or my quickening.

I’m not worried though, and feel no shame.
This is the thing about the coming of hope:
it comes when it wants. You can’t cajole it,
speed its journey, push it in the small of its back.
It crosses the street to greet you when
it’s good and ready. Or you are good and ready,
free from distraction and burden, levied
by a release or some created space. It may not
happen for me until February when that
first crocus pokes through the grass,
or mid-July. Heck, the light and renewal
of Christmas may miss me altogether this year
and next, but it will come. I have faith,

it will come, for in this slow and steeping
darkness, I see a star shining in the distant east.
It does not retract its light or its shimmer.
Someday, I’ll make it there, swim under
its faithful and persistent illumination.
Have empathy for yourself. If the spirit
does not find you, trust the spirit is looking.
If the weight of the world cannot be toppled
by a two thousand-year old baby from a faraway
land, do not worry. The spirit will find another
way. It’s a path, my friends, not a dwelling.
Faith is a journey, pilgrims, not a place.

These are the names of the tribes

I don’t know what is between the world and Ta-Nehisi,
just as he has no idea what is between the world and me.
But I know that I’m called to try to understand,
no matter what the differences. I don’t love jazz,
nor do I love Afro-Cuban music, like Dale does.
I have no idea what it’s like to help a llama birth
like Lindy does. I have no idea why someone would want
to make tiny little books or create art on old skateboards,
but I love two people who do. To be a man? I do not know.
To be poor? Endangered? Wealthy? To have the pressure
of being a CEO? A single mother? When Jesus grew
to be a man, he was asked the most important commandment.
Love one another, that clear and simple. I’m still waiting
for this idea to engulf me, radicalize me.
Oh, how we live in solstice, equally light and dark.
Tomorrow, our earth’s tilt will let light return to us
a minute at at time. Perhaps, I’ll notice it falling
on all of the people I have not yet chosen to see.
Spill and shine without favor, uniformly faithful
and devoted. Like our love should be, could be.
Like God’s love falling upon us even when we do not see.

Be hospitable to one another without complaint

If she were alive, this would be
the Sunday my mom and dad would throw
their annual Christmas Brunch.
Yes, I used capital letters on purpose.
Egg casserole, chicken livers (I know),
curried fruit (again an interesting choice),
Canadian bacon, sour cream coffee cake,
Bloody Mary’s, assorted cookies.

I had a lot of good traditions in my
good childhood: Sunday afternoon baseball
games on the first base side (season tickets),
“Envelope gifts” on Christmas morning,
teacher thank-you lunches on our deck
yummy with Strawberries Romanoff.
My mother knew how to be hospitable.
I didn’t inherit a single drop of it from her.

I once threw a party for my 49th birthday
(don’t ask), and even though I bought huge
sheet pizzas, pop and beer, and did not lift
a finger to do my own cooking, the whole thing
threw me into a tizzy. It was my first dorm party,
thirty years late, and I thought I might pass out.

Though it did not impress me then, my mother
helped the world in many ways: delivering food
to families in public housing at Thanksgiving,
(often alone), helping all of those Thetas
at the Pitt house and across the country.
Room mother times two kids times seven years.
Mom would have welcomed Joseph and Mary
at the inn, would’ve probably given them
her own bed and bought Jesus hundreds of presents,
if they would have had TJ Maxx back then.

She drove cancer patients to their treatments.
I remember her telling me that, after one
of her riders died, she went to his funeral,
and she was the only person there, except
for the man’s sister. Every time I think about
that story, I cry. Maybe because I don’t
want an empty memorial service, and maybe
because it breaks my heart that I didn’t thank
my mother for all of the good things she did.

In the midst of her life, my mom and I
went at it and, still (on my bad days),
I carry a grudge about some of the ways
she parented me. Like most teens, I ignored
her, ridiculed her, let her know how much
smarter I was than her, I was cruel.
And at the end of her life, when just
walking was hard, shopping impossible,
sleep rare, I didn’t do enough to help.
Now that I know the pain of bad knees,
I want to Marty McFly back to the past,
and carry in the groceries, help her cook dinner,
unload the dishwasher without complaint,
do all of her laundry, thousands of loads.

Too often, we learn what we need to know
too late and without a way to rectify
our mistakes. Sometimes, in my head,
I talk with my mom. I say that I’m sorry,
I ask for advice I never sought earlier,
I tell her I understand now, and that
the love I did not have have or share,
is alive and well. That I hope she feels it.

This morning, I had a scrambled egg sandwich,
even though (damn) I loved that egg casserole.
But, maybe, if I can boost my pantry,
I’ll make my annual Christmas cookies –
her recipes – brown butter frosting
on homemade brownies, butterscotch and chocolate
Chinese chow mein noodle haystacks.
And when I see that loopy cursive on those
3 by 5 cards, I will smile – with thanks,
with love, with sorrow – missing mom.

I shall not want

It has been a long time
since a walk in the woods,
feet on uneven path,
socks dotted with thistles
and burrs. I do not hunt
for my food, it comes in
boxes and bags, flown in
from countries near and far.
We are not birds, still north
during a mild winter, plucking
cold berries from cold trees.
We are not people bearing loads
on the eighty mile journey
from Nazareth to Bethlehem.
We invent and feed anxiety
over things Jesus, the man,
never needed to know. Give thanks,
then, for our modern lives, their
conveniences, our shoes with
rubber soles and cushy insteps,
the maps in our pockets and screens,
our feet, so soft and untested.

Opening their treasures, they offered him gifts

She came in fifteen minutes
after she’d given me her gift.
Did you open it, did you see?
Angel was eager to know I liked
what she had snuck onto my desk.
In a flurry of excitement,
I read the card, then opened
the four piece box of chocolate
from Whitman’s. I made sure my face
lit up, I showed huge enthusiasm,
not because I had wanted chocolate,
but because I wanted her to know
she is a favorite too. I don’t need
a BMW 425, a hefty gift card
from my favorite store. All I will
ever need is my name scrolled
onto an envelope, spelled incorrectly,
a kid standing there, telling me,
as best she can, that she knows
I see her, I’m on her side.

Later in the day, archiving email,
I sorted through old messages,
one from Janet telling me she
wanted to become a teacher,
Andrew letting me know
he was thankful for what I had done,
Dawn saying she’d never forgotten me.
Sheri asking how I was, really was.
This is the most precious gift
we can ever give each other:
the knowledge that the impression
we made has stayed, swirled
into memory, into heart, lasting.

We are all wise men traveling toward
people we love, people who save us.
Give them what matters most,
your golden devotion, a drop of
your frankincense feelings,
a dose of myrrh, of mirth, of mercy.
Say I love you however you can,
in chocolate, in a well carved ham,
in words, in a gift extended, in your
enthusiastic asking: do like this?
I knew you would, I know you well.

Travel light

We must remember that every day has its journeys,
maybe not to a distant town for census taking,
maybe without a baby in the womb, but each day
we load up for the challenges. Perhaps a trip
across town to visit an old nextdoor neighbor.
Or a road race in New Zealand. Maybe someone
you know is heading to surgery tomorrow, or
setting off to hand in a final project that needs
to be perfect to maintain his grade point average.
Someone is going to Macy’s to find a cruise bathing suit,
ten pounds heavier than she has ever been, another
to hospice to register her father for full time care.

We are all heading somewhere, and not all
of the destinations are appealing.
How brave and wondrous we are, the way
we have to exercise such restrained and
persistent confidence to make it through life,
to make it through the next day. Right now,
stop reading this poem, send out a
blessing to someone who will need
an extra dose of grace and goodwill.
And now, do the same for yourself.
Feel your heart’s steady beat, your feet’s
firm conviction, the resolve in your shoulders.
You are pilgrim, you are well equipped,
you will get to where you need to be.
I promise you, the road you are on is right.

You will be free indeed

Just now, I went back through my photos and deleted
almost every single one of my first love,
a love that was strong but ended badly.
Even the ones with my mother, who adored C,
and the batch from Saugatuck, our perfect vacation.
I kept one, my favorite, from when we in the hills
of Ithaca. She was wearing her pink nehru shirt
and the sun was striking her face golden at sunset.
She looked so happy – it must be okay to hang onto
that picture, to remember that we spent years
without fear or disappointment, just light.

There was no forethought, no triggering event.
I was looking for a night picture for this poem,
saw those old selfies, and started scrubbing the images
one by one, barely stopping to remember the house on Tybee,
the ghost tour in Savannah, putting up Christmas trees,
that time I kidnapped her and swept her away
for her birthday weekend. Click, click, click,
no cymbals clashing, no nail chewing,
nary a rumble in my chest. This is needed
at Advent too: releasing, letting go, creating space
in the inn of your heart by giving freedom
to that which no longer serves. God cannot be born
in you unless there is an empty and ready place.

I have called you friends

Again Mary is on my mind, and
tonight, I hope she had friends.
Elizabeth, her cousin, was near,
and besides sharing childbirth,
I hope they shared laughter
over hummus, plucked pita bread
from the same woven basket.
I want to know that they sailed
back across the years, baby John
and Jesus at their feet,
remembering the times they
stood like sisters, the times
they sang together the same songs.
It takes more than one mother
to raise a normal child, these days,
I can only imagine the number
of mamas it took to raise a king.

Tonight, there’s a woman in Amherst
tucking her baby boy into bed,
two dozen miles to the east, her sister
is thinking of that same beautiful boy.
Ten blocks away from me, a mother
is checking on her wide-cheeked baby
before she heads downstairs to do
more work for tomorrow’s work day.
I hope she knows I’m wishing that
sweet baby a good night’s sleep too.
We’re all praying before we rest,
whether you call it praying or not.
This one, you think, precious to me,
this one, you remember, precious to me,
this one and this one, precious too.

Thou hast found favor with God

Mary isn’t really someone who
has captured much of our attention.
No statues, no special prayers or grottos
from us heady Presbyterians. Mary,
always in that praying stance, her head
covered, her eyes lowered, hands clasped.
That impression evokes weakness, sub
servience. One willing to be less than.

But I would hazard to guess that Mary
was -may I say it? – ballsy. How could
she not be: called to raise a holy child?
She was the one who had to push God out,
wipe God’s rear, clean God’s vomit.
Then she had tell God no, slap his hand
When it got too close to the fire,
yank him away from a braying mule,
keep him going to the rabbi on days
he wanted to play hooky, punish him after
he knocked over the tables in temple.
Lest you never forget, Mary taught
God to read, to count, to call the sky blue.

What I want to pray for tonight is
more women like Mary: strong,
capable, fevered by a quickening,
willing to take an illogical chance.
Women who crash against each other
in rugby games, assert power in
corporate boardrooms. Women who
write dangerous poems, fill out
internet petitions. Women who wear
hijabs and overalls, crew cuts and braids.
Women who march and sing, raising their
children and their voices, wanting what Jesus
asks us to want: justice and compassion,
love for our neighbors and ourselves.

Put on a heart of compassion, kindness

Universally, Amish men wave.
Whether from their buggies,
or standing on the side of the road,
they extend a hand, faithful
to generosity and grace.
Today, they didn’t care about
my short haircut or big belly,
my car, my bank account,
my social standing, however weak.
They waved every single time.

In this age of rampant sarcasm
and insincere howareyou,
in this time of B words and N words,
and words laced with aggression,
in this time of easy dismissals,*
there’s something pure and righteous
about a man, in his black and white,
never veering away from cordiality.
I don’t want to make the
chicken farmer on Rt. 93 into Jesus,
but he was Jesus for me today.

When the rebirth comes in a handful of days,
I wonder what it would be like
to adopt Jesus into my habits:
welcoming the stranger, speaking
to the enslaved, releasing
the captives, in this year of jubilee.
I wonder what it would be like
to raise my hand hello to everyone,
so too lift it to the heavens,
the rising light, the wide sky.
To be kind, but mostly waving
– as we should all wave –
to that which is bigger and
better than we will ever be.

Above all, love each other deeply

My neighbors moved, just a few blocks away,
and my world seems to have flipped over.
Home sounds different without their noises
and play sounds. It smells different, too,
without garlic and Taco Tuesday wafting this way.
It feels different, but I can barely write
about that. I’ll stop typing now –

– and push my heart back under my skin so it
stays and forces me to endure this sadness.

Tonight, Tavish climbed my tree nearly to the top,
to hang these Christmas lights. It’s a rag tag
tree, with too many bulbs in one spot and a couple
long arms of stray light. But that doesn’t matter
to me, what matters is being with my boy,
him up in the tree, us figuring out how to
get the job done. Sure, I had to drive over,
pick him up, and I had to drive him home,
but nothing changed. He knew how to get to
the basement, where to find the extension cord, 
how to avoid stepping on my white rug,
like he’s done since he was three.

For ten years, I had love living next door,
love incarnate in eclectic form.
A woman so steady and unflappable
that I grew stronger just being near.
A man like me (but so much smarter),
I was forced to love my foibles
because of my admiration for him.
A boy whose engineer brain is always
lincoln-logging information together,
making the pieces fit. A girl who looks
as if the sun is drawn only to her,
and our little wonder, a child who
spins and spins, her senses aflame.
Is love not what they showed me?
Sure, flawed, facile, wondrous, active?

Now that they on Middlefield Road,
in a big old house that fits their family,
I’ll have to work harder to get my fill.
Maybe, actually needing love instead of
having love three steps down from my porch
and across a driveway, will make me value
it all more acutely. There was ease, for sure,
in wandering over to get an easy dose
of affection. But now it will be explicit:
come, they will tell me, and I will run over.
Now, I will ask, and they will answer, yes,
please, we would love to have you near.

So too, with our prayers and our God.
Sadness makes for yearning, and asking
demands attention. Imagine how God must feel
right now – so many of us saying come,
so many of us waiting and wanting,
so many of us, on our knees, asking.
We know it’s not easy to receive love and grace,
but how can love and grace ignore us,
when we are calling out with such longing?

They arose at twilight

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that advent
falls on the edge of darkness. Our days
grow shorter, night plummets in a heavy rush.
Sometimes, those two forces meet in a mad
blaze of beauty. I am thinking tonight,
not of the coming baby, but the children
I must kill off. The immature grudges,
the undeveloped strengths, the dreams
still sucking on their thumbs. I know
it’s just a metaphor, this child that comes
back year after year, and I know that
metaphor’s purpose: to wipe the slate clean,
to erase the crutch of your good doings,
to set fire to the fear that paralyzes.
To meet yourself, again, where your
light and darkness intersect, to see
a distance star and start walking.
Not to a destination you’ve known,
but to a place you’ve yet to visit.
Dewy and warm behind the ears,
your feet soft and hungry for what’s next.

Be still before the lord

Tonight before the concert,
hundreds of us had to wait
in the lobby of Waetjen Hall.
A baby, on his mother’s shoulder,
kept looking at me. His eyes
wide and unblinking. Curious,
but without judgment.
I could’ve had a chin hair,
it would not have mattered.
Or a nest of sparrows in my hair,
he would not have turned away.
What if we could believe,
for a moment, that this is
how baby Jesus would’ve looked at us.
What if we could trust, that
no matter how we falter or sway,
this is the way God looks at us still.
Unwavering in his attention,
unflinching in his devotion.
Offering neither praise nor verdict,
just the stillness of acceptance.

Present your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice

I wonder, tonight, if Jesus looked like Mary,
with her long spaghetti fingers. Or more like
Joseph, wearing big plunger feet. Was he good
in math, like she was, did he inherit his perfect
hand-eye coordination from Joseph’s great great
grandfather, the best tailor in his small village?
What of Jesus, his body, the vessel of his spirit.
Did he suffer from the physical ailments
that cartwheel through every life, bad hips
from all of that carpentry, or hearing loss
after an unceasing bout with a sinus infection?
Did he have croop? Make Mary stay awake
for days on end, her hair matted, eyes crazed.
Was she ever forced to scream, “Get the baby down,
would you? I can’t take it another goddamn minute.”
Did he lean his bad knees against cold tiles
like I do? Cry in front of his doctor like I did?
Did he ever wonder, as I will, if his spirit
would grow stronger under the duress
and blessings of pain? I must remind myself
that, when I pray tonight, I am not praying
to a god who never knew this living, but with
a god who wore a body too. Skin that bruised,
bones that splintered and chipped, and a heart that beat,
then stopped, like all of ours eventually will.

I know the plans I have for you

When I was little and had to make balloons
for a birthday party or special event,
I could get the latex to fill easily
with my big swimmer’s lungs, but tying off
the knot was like some kind of vaudeville act.
My face contorted, every finger turned
explosively blue-red because of my inability
to get that stubby end looped and released.
No matter, though, eventually my father
or my brother would see my contortions,
and take on the job of getting the job done.
That’s the way it is with God: you be you,
and I will be me. If you can jump and turn,
arabesque and ballon through air, jump.
I will remain steward to the ground,
facilitating meetings and warming my porch.
If you can litigate and argue for constitutional rights,
please do so with every ounce of your outrage.
I will go to the edge of river and solve my
disagreements there. Dance if you can,
cook and entertain. Tend to the garden,
design the next office building, file those taxes.
God needs us all. Jesus never stood in front
of a crowd and told us to be like our neighbors,
he wanted us to love them, just as we love ourselves.
We are waiting for this baby, indeed, but what
we may be waiting for with a greater urgency
is his message: be, love, with all your strength,
your soul, your heart. Your’s, not anyone else’s.

Enlarge the place of your tent

Jean-Baptiste-Louis Franquelin,
cartographer from France,
drew this land, which we now
call Ohio and this lake,
both home to the Erie Nation.
This land did not invite
Jean-Baptiste, the tribe, or us,
but it also did not refuse.
The land simply laid its belly up,
spread its arms wide seeking the sun.

And the sun’s rays sparked life into
the green, its fruits and berries.
The sun didn’t invite the mapmaker,
the Iroquois nation, or us,
but it did not refuse. It shone
without preference or judgment.
So too the necessary rain and
the relief of clouds’ shade.
Just like the worms fertilizing
beneath us, the bees moving
pollen from anther to stigma,
on every continent of this earth.

We know how this story ends.
Jesus up on that cross, two holes
in his hands, bleeding. And we know
the stigma he carried before
those nails were placed there.
Born a refugee, wandering from
mount to sea. Jesus didn’t care
which sand his foot stepped on,
which place his message landed.

Later, I will not fall asleep easily,
as if the darkness of the night
is a cozy lullaby to the day.
It will feel heavy, loaded with
the weight of intolerance, but even it
– the dark- will not see borders
on the land or differences in its people:
the ones spewing xenophobia, the ones
crawling up on a new shore, and even us
who watch not knowing what to do.
Darkness cannot be mapped, measured,
it falls upon us equally. And so
will the coming light fall, without
boundaries and limits. This we must pray.
The light will come, the light will come,
say it with me, the light must come.

We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist.

Yesterday, Ann Arbor was shrouded in fog.
It felt mystical, numinous, as if something
was coming, shifting. Fog gives us an itchy edge,
reminds us that this is all a mystery, a swarm
of lucidity and chaos. This morning, the peasoup
followed me to the pull of the Maumee River Bridge,
which always feels like a birth canal to me.
Every time I cross, I feel like I could transform
into someone else by the time I hit solid ground again.
But there was no gift of change when the slope descended.
Time had not ticked back to when I was young
and free and beautiful. It had not tocked forward
to the spot when I will realize – as you will realize –
that we are here too briefly and without enough
appreciation. I was me at the end of the bridge,
and I was still me when the fog lifted around Sandusky.

These peaks of ecstatic thinking and hope
can hurt us, you know. All of the expectation,
disappointment. What if, on Christmas morning,
you can’t hear the baby crying? What if the pine
doesn’t clear and clean your nose? What if,
after all of this praying, you only see empty boxes
and wrinkled wrapping paper all around you?
This is the hard part of advent: you must drive
your life towards a muddle, catching glimpses
of a star shining in the east as the clouds duck and shift.
Are you strong enough for the long trip of faith?
The one that will inevitably stretch past the 25th
with all of its shine and sparkle. Are your bags packed
for contingencies and delays? Are you wearing layers?
Squirreling away snacks in your pockets?
Let us never forget this mission of transformation
does not end nineteen days from now. There will be
no bright and permanent shift. Christmas is a moment
suspended before the hard terrain, a rest stop,
a place to refuel for the miles of searching ahead.

Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines.

Do not think that Mary went enthusiastically, or that Joseph was gung ho. There was trepidation, there was reluctance, there was fear, and not in a small dose.  

You can be resilient, ready to sleep in the straw, ready to eat the scraps thrown away from those with reserved rooms at the inn. And you can also just lay down, cry, feel the hot dessert sadness rise up from your core. 

Life is not always easy, the road to new birth is filled with change and challenge. Mary did not know that when her water broke, it would keep flowing. So too, you. There are times when only tears can teach you what you need to know.

You have fed them with the bread of tears

I made a long list of what I do not believe about God,
then I decided that I better lead with what I know:
when we are lucky, God shows up in other people.
There will be no burning bush for me, no booming
voice falling from the sky for you. We will not see
someone walk across water, but we will see someone
walking toward us with a cup. Not a holy chalice,
just a simple plastic throwaway from the Stone Oven,
or your favorite neighbor joint. No one will exile
us with a forty-year flood, but we will be
saturated in laughter, we will be rung out by tears.
No one will touch the hem of your jacket
and heal your ills, but someone may lay her hand
upon your head crying, or whack you in the arm,
punctuating a funny story. No one will ask you
to stay awake for him as he prays, but someone
may stay in the car a bit longer to hear about
the end of your hard day. We can wait and wait
for the birth of Jesus, or we can unfurl the
colorful carpet, begin the act of blessing
each other with warmth and grace without
any sacred instruction or nudge. There’s no need
to be patient for something holy to travel to or descend
upon us, we can reach out, take that first chance.
So go, be your own Jesus, see God around you.
That, alone, is miracle enough to change your life.

If I just touch his garments, I will get well

You have to take your shoes off for reiki.
I had forgotten that and many other things
after months away from the clinic.
All of the hugging, for example, and
speaking in hushed tones. A stranger
touches you, sometimes just hovering,
infinitesimal space between you and her,
but you feel it – the energy. How we are drawn,
like rock to water, like bones to bed.
When I used to get reiki with Jane
she would end the session by spinning a finger
above my chest and dropping gold into my heart.
Janice, tonight, felt like she was pressing
God back into my head, a purposeful finger
where the soft spot in my crown used to be.

I lose my size at reiki – somehow smaller
than I am physically and larger that I could
ever be metaphysically. I’m swaddled and
roaming the universe, at the same time,
my breath like the sea, lapping under
the direction of the moon, which is under
the control of the sun, which is linked
to a system of stars which shone upon
a woman and a man hiking their way across
a desert. Stars which will shine on
the next coming, if it every comes,
that day when we all feel our own breaths
and understand the only thing we all share:
resurrection and release, resurrection and release.

Go then, eat your bread in happiness

Most of the time, I eat dinner
with the company of TV characters.
Or the news, which is never pleasant.
I eat lunch at my desk, one hand
on the computer mouse while I chew.
Breakfast, two eggs over easy at the sink.
But, tonight, I learned the recipe for
healthy eating and it had nothing to do with food.
The table was set with heavy silverware,
bordered by linen and thin crystal.
The meal started in the kitchen, with
appetizers, small bites of conversation
between three who had never dined together.
Loosening, loosening then beginning to weave.

I ate salmon, green beans and almond slivers,
tomatoes kissed with balsamic. But what filled me
were the poems, the catch in the reader’s voice,
the way her hand reached out to rest on his arm.
Dessert was a fork full of laughter, then another,
so sweet. What, you ask, does this have to do
with advent? Waiting? The coming of the babe?
This: when you wait – and we are all waiting for something –
do not wait alone. There are tables surrounded
by chairs, eight plates in every cupboard.
Invite yourself into the fold, give yourself permission
to knock at the door. I am here, you’ll say,
and, in an instant, you’ll be swept inside.

Let justice roll like a river

First, she was not old. Forty-two is young, we know.
Just the right age to be brazen and hopeful and angry.
This was not because she was tired,though I’m sure she was.
Or had had a long day, though it surely had its stresses.
This happened because Ms. Parks was willing to embrace
the dangers of resistance. Willing to step onto
that yellow and green bus knowing she was starting
us all on a road trip, a road trip without a map
but leaning towards one destination: justice.
Look at her eyes; they’re not steely and bitter.
They’re soft and sure. And those shoulders,
not dropped in shame or agitation, but solid,
squared to the future. I know we’re waiting
for baby this season, but don’t you dare forget
that that baby grows to be a man who wasn’t satisfied
with convention or law, but committed to the possibility
that we all can be better people. On buses,
in schools and prisons, at dime store counters,
water fountains. Even now, in our neighborhoods,
our courts, our paychecks and our churches.
We can show love by realizing it never runs out.
Liberty and justice too, both without end. Amen, Amen.
I know we’re waiting for a baby, but he,
and his good friend, Rosa? They are still waiting
for us. Yes, they are still waiting for us.