The words of a poem
should dovetail
like wood panels
of a finely crafted
cabinet.

The words of a poem 
should glide,
effortlessly,
like a finely tuned
drawer.

In the box canyon
where a canyon wren has nested,
the canyon wren’s song
glides across the canyon
seamlessly
like water over rock:
each note
articulated and
composed
with a craftsman’s
precision.

Even so, it isn’t the melody 
you remember.
It’s the way your heart
sang out.

All along the song was within you 
but the bird gave it wing.


Bethlehem, USA, December 2020
 
It was a busy night.
We admitted 15.
There are no beds anywhere,
and everyone went to his own town to register.
 
We admitted one young Covid-positive mother 
with pre-eclampsia to labor & delivery,
and she wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger,
because there was no room for them in the inn.
 
There are flight delays due to weather.
It was 6 degrees Fahrenheit last night.
It was a busy night,
and there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby,
keeping watch over their flocks at night.
 
We’re worried about our patients in tents.
With the winds and snow,
tents are quite stressed.
But the Ursid meteor shower lit up the night,
and suddenly a great company of the heavenly host
appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
“Peace to men on whom his favor rests.”
 
Before we air-lift patients to the University,
we need to call ahead
to see if they meet criteria,
so Joseph went to Bethlehem the town of David, 
because he belonged to the house and line of David.
 
The broken door to the ER 
lets in the cold and damp.
But Mary treasured up all these things 
and pondered them in her heart.
 
It’s cold.
There is no room anywhere.
Cars arriving for drive-through testing 
idle before dawn as they queue
and create a bottleneck for ambulances,
but the shepherds said to one another,
“Let’s go to Bethlehem to see this thing, 
which the Lord has told us about.”
 
It was a busy night.
Snow fell and dusted the trees
as if it were just another Christmas.
Foot traffic is heavy,
and sidewalk’s paisley
patterns announce winter’s austere hours:
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, 
and the baby, who was lying in the manger.
 
Even though there are no open beds remaining,
we might still find a way to accommodate one more.
 
All this took place to fulfill 
what the Lord had said through the prophet.
“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.”

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The gods took note. 
Everything recorded or sung 
on Mount Olympus 
was whispered first below.
A child on a mother’s knee 
heard it first.
 
During the Spring of womanhood, 
the mother was Ceres. Her child 
was a dangerous spinning top 
for whom she risked Hades, 
ready to stop time in its tracks.
 
In Summer, the second season, 
Cassandra emerged. She knew 
all and had seen all. 
Under sails that flapped like gulls’ wings,
her eyes pierced storm clouds
and saw destruction.
She knew Ceres was wrong,
That no one can stop time. 
The halting of time in winter 
is an illusion. Even Atlas 
knows the world 
spins on his shoulders.
 
Then with the arrival of Fall,
the woman, like Calypso, 
held to all she loved until, 
like ocean water, 
it slipped between her fingers, 
like leaves from the trees,
or the loves she lost.
 
Winter was Penelope’s season. 
Though not a goddess,
she knew above the rest 
that anything of value 
is worth the wait.

Radical faith
returns to the root of love.
Radical love
returns to the root of change.
Radical change
returns to the root of hope,
 
which is the unfolding 
of the wild rose,
 
whose stem and whose thorn
break trampled leaf-litter to bud,
drawing from dirt, fragrance,
 
whose rippled sheets of overlapping petals
stow away pollen,
that outlasts the storm.
 

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Even the grass is not the shepherd’s
but for the sheep.
The catnip lies in wait for the stray cat.
The dry riverbed’s sole purpose
is to channel rain.

Surely the housewife who said,
“Hunger is the best sauce”
knew hunger
draws us close.

Thirst longs to be quenched
like earth before the monsoon.

At the crossroads of ocean currents and trade winds,
we sway
like a sail that fills with wind.

Our purpose, apparently,
is to receive:

My lungs
draw in air
without toil,
not unlike
the wildflower’s roots
who take nothing
but receive all.

Even my ears—
I suspect—
are stationed on earth
to hearken to bird song
chiming at the feeder,

and nearby—
the pulsing
of hummingbird’s
wing.

You shuffle between midnight piano melody
and this crazy deep-down wail
 
like hummingbird’s double harmony:
 
whose only axe is flight,
whose wings beat faster than a child’s pinwheel,
 
who repurposes thread of spiderweb to sew a nest,
who transposes snare to song.

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“Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.”
–William Butler Yeats

Each morning one winter
I rose to claw and scrape
ice thick as orange rind
from my windshield.
Then, driving east,
I watched theatrical colors
light up the hogbacks.
While gloved hand gripped
the steering wheel, my mind
fashioned lines of poetry.
But poems slipped away like ice
melting down sunlit stems.

According to an article I read once,
the gold-tinged hogbacks on the horizon
are radioactive. Earth’s uplift
brings to surface and releases
stored radiation. Hike to see
the cliffrose buds explode into blossom:
On one branch, you count five petals,
but on another you may find clusters
of nine petals, or thirteen.

I’d like to believe that life cycles on without changing
much. The frost-heavy windshield, a display of Belgian lace,
same thread, new designs. But even as we stand
the ground beneath our feet lurches
and implodes.

What was hidden comes to light:
As if seated in our midst, the unknown—
an uninvited guest—explosive as a landmine,
charges and ignites.