Four Poems for Advent
note the hour,
note the shadows in their gather,
I, lost in the counting until
one more tips the scales,
my capacity now more swiftly overcome
by the sheer weight of aggregation,
I let it go, let it go.
I turn and watch the setting of the sun;
I watch the waters;
I hear the songs of mossy rocks and dark bare branches stripped of leaves and life,
Detritus, foam and scum in swirling pools fading in the dusk to indistinction.
And in the wind-swept cool of approaching frost that reaches marrow deep,
In my solitude I perceive the cracks,
unexpected windows, momentary glimpses,
My thoughts clinging, finding purchase,
There at the edges,
No carols of advertising to prompt,
No steals or deals; No crowds, or parking lots
What if we watched for none of these,
Let go of such signs of the season that seek to center us and tell the time for us
and in their created magic bring comfort of a sort, ephemeral, like a memory yet unborn
that dances of the edge of memory, indistinct.
Let it go.
Let us watch,
patience honing the edge of deeper dreams and visions:
Already but not yet, watching and being watched;
abiding until that which will happen happens, which has, which must,
Let the falling darkness sweep us up into the psalms in low lament,
A song of Advent softy in a minor key within our soul, staying,
building to the chorus.
living in the tension of God’s action:
the past utterly shaping our present,
the future breaking in, changing everything, calling us forward into a new now.
Let our doubts face the gathering witness.
We watch to see what we have failed to see or
need to see again and again and again until our memories saturate and know nothing else
but God in incarnation, the mystery of which in holy simplicity could be a life for us,
is life for us now and always.
dear Lord, I wait,
a thousand thoughts pressing on,
pressing in, crossing the borders of boredom,
entering the no-man’s land of indistinction,
waiting then at the gates unarmed, uncaring;
distraction building upon distraction and daydream
and I walk around in small circles, a hand on the chair,
and pause and look and turn,
an ear to the distant hum and rattle,
the score of my life,
an endless loop in uninteresting variation,
I wait until I am nearly sick of it,
sick in my heart, head throbbing,
my eyes unfixed, unclear.
Dear God, I cannot see what you see,
and truth be told it unhinges me
more often than I might otherwise admit.
And waiting demands patience,
a pricy virtue, don’t you think;
another lie we tell ourselves,
and I in my jeans and button-down from LL Bean
unaccustomed to the poverty that such waiting demands,
the humility, the emptying of self,
when self is what we know best,
who we think we are, when in truth , we are so much more,
more beyond our dreaming, our doing, our living,
but not in ourselves, not of ourselves,
for true meaning come from outside, from another,
the one we are waiting for and poorly, still.
but there isn’t time to wait, is there?
No time to even dream whatever the gift it brings.
We wait for a moment, and not one more moment, not one,
and blink away the edge of doubt
and count the steps of the postman, the barks our neighbor’s dog in passing,
the unlubricated complaint of our mailbox receiving the daily junk
in rusty protest, opening and closing,
and count the footfalls into the silence of distance of leather soles.
We wait to see what you see, dear God,
to know just a little,
to stretch an increment across the strands of hope,
but we cannot, will not, we refusing of our own nature,
that is no longer ours alone, but we have forgotten this and so much else.
One moment more, we swear.
for the simplicity of clarity,
for a road sign that commands
and we on a dime, on our heels, in that very place would turn in joy,
and run and leap and sing until we doubled over from the very outpouring of expression, of movement, of life,
the waiting then over,
only if a sign appeared.
But we find ourselves in place, unmoved and unmoving,
a pause for the glacial pace of change to thaw,
and crash in torrents and carve the world anew,
we beholding with our own eyes the work and will of God,
calling, urging, speaking to our life in unambiguous meaning and direction.
We wait for this,
but all is already new and being renewed,
for everything is changing, changed, and we are waiting,
for what has already come to pass,
we mistakenly ambassadors in residence, rather than pilgrims on the road;
to wait while going,
to live out the paradox of an Advent faith,
of an Easter God,
of an always creating Creator who only asks us
to be who we are called to be in Christ,
in humility, in brokenness, in serving, in love:
To embody our love for God in our love for one another,
until Christ returns.
and another waits upon the horizon.
A woman I had met, but casually,
the mother of a friend of a friend
of years past, defying memory in this season of running
and doing, and the edge of going over the edge
from the shear weight of it all,
the damn lights and Chismons still not up upon the trees,
still re-writing Christmas Eve,
seeking the second shepherd reader,
pondering if anyone will come
for the Longest Night.
And burdened, too,
the weight of year-end finances and the business of church
and the responsibility of hands once placed upon my head and a calling
oh, the calling, having grown heavy in the cooler months of winter.
And at the funeral home,
the staff like old friends with warm smiles and handshakes
and small talk,
death their business, and dignity.
a life in photographs and shared stories,
and young granddaughters who had always known Nana
who is no more,
blonde curls cascading and ribbons,
each sob unending,
rending my heart until I skip a beat
in eternal pause
and only continue carried along by familiar words
that neither death nor life nor things present nor things to come,
but these things have come, and death has come,
and the sobs come and tears mar cheeks that ought to be rosy red from laughter and I wonder what on earth I could possibly say to make such tears
fly away to far beyond a child’s approaching thoughts of Christmas;
That the well the words might once again provide and prove living water
for the abounding thirst,
here at the end of things, at the abyss.
I come to hope reluctantly
often with a pair of knees old before their years,
a random twinge, limping
and with squinty eyes as if longing for sleep
or wanting of lift,
red-rimmed, dry like sandpaper eyes,
eyes that take in much, but declare it chaff and let it fall to ground,
for burning: the good, the bad, the indifferent
tossed in so much confusion to defy recognition for sorting out.
I come to hope with a fondness for arrogance
and a lack of humility born of a life live too comfortably,
and enough tarnished nostalgia to get by on
that needs to be broken for healing,
the very notion turning me to other things, rather then drawing me in,
miscellany rather than reflection,
mindlessness an alternative to confession,
Then death comes and another’s pain
and the abounding grief of many more
and I in turn must guide towards a promised hope
that will not let the silence speak the final word,
the grave the final word,
the triumph of nothing becoming everything;
“What then shall we say to this?”
and I committed to saying nothing but a word of hope
trusting, broken, scared out of my mind
and seeing in a child’s tear-filled eyes my child’s eyes
and the eyes of every grieving soul.
We grieve because we love, the order of things,
the manner of creation, after the image of the Creator,
born into the world, born into the flesh,
born of a woman, born into a life and a calling and a future
and a promise;
Born to become the hope the will defy death
a hope unconquered, unbowed, unwavering
and in defying death to define our life and the life of every living thing;
and transform all
even the tears of little girls
Do you recall,
The promise of our younger days:
The wonder of a tree ablaze in light,
garlanded in gold and countless stories
shaped as ornaments;
the promise wrapped in paper and ribbon and bow,
spilling out of stockings like candy coins and chocolate reindeer.
For it is there for all to see in albums of photographs and
in attics in celluloid slowly eroding into dust.
Perhaps in children or children’s children
we sought to kindle embers of memory,
to see in their wide and wondrous eyes
the joy that clings to promise
like inseparable friends, sharers of secrets
who together traipsed the forests of youth
and embraced its mystery.
Let’s call it mood, these promises,
Evoked in carols and parking lots of crowded malls
and elves and reindeer and Santa Claus,
and Christmas trees of memories,
and model trains,
a sea of lights upon the eaves and lawns
and Christmas cards and Yule logs,
to turn the heaviness of life past five o’clock
and bring a weary smile
as the days grow shorter
and the nights unfriendly cool and long and dark.
And if such things bring a warmth and lift,
a mood turned towards giving gifts and
laughter over eggnog
or the family letter,
let it be.
Let it be, but spur your soul
to embrace this confounding notion:
The incarnation declares God
come into the world
in the flesh,
to live and die and live
so that, as they say, we, too, may upon the day
when we draw our final breath
allow the promise to carry us and those we love,
our most despairing hour overcome by light
bright enough in hope to
illuminate the child who leads us,
the promise beyond knowing, made known:
What began in Bethlehem to define our all in all.