Divine message

inspired by my husband’s Christmas morning sermon

In the second chapter of Luke
there are three references
to the baby Jesus
lying in a manger

the word ‘lying’
signifying being placed there
by someone else

the same reference appears
three times in Luke 23
regarding Christ’s body in the tomb

beyond the symbolism
of three
as complete and perfect
— holy holy holy
the message of Christ
from creche to crypt
is that in our humanity
we must
have help

Christ in his Manger-Bed. Lawrence OP. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Jesus is laid in the tomb. dbgg1979. CC-BY

Merry and bright

But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting. —Micah 5:2

Ancient wonder is born anew this night
merry
angels
sing
Glory
merry
star
shines
bright
merry
is this ancient night, wonder born anew

Micah, 14 months, Christmas Eve

‘Twas the night before… ick

with apologies to Clement C. Moore
and mice

‘Twas the night before the night before the night before Christmas
when all through the house

or at least under the kitchen sink
and in the SILVERWARE DRAWER
a creature WAS stirring

yes a mouse

what to my horrified eyes should appear
in the morning
amongst the forks and spoons
—you can imagine—

ICK ICK ICK

so off to the hardware store
we flew like a flash
for D-Con and such…
all we could score…

I spoke not a word but went straight to my work
of rodenticide, with my newfound arsenal
after disinfecting and sanitizing everything in sight
—dash it all, dash it all, dash it all—

tidy, furry, and cute (?)
works from a distance
or maybe in fiction
definitely NOT in my kitchen

with visions of vermin
dancing on spoons
(among other things)
I keep shuddering and scrubbing
in spite of myself

happy Christmas to all
and to all a good-night
except the poor mouse
no more in my house…

Santa Claws: the greeting card (Project 365: 348/365)tehchix0r. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Is it too late to ask Santa for one more thing?

Father talk

One more post prompted by WordPress:
Talk about your father or the father figure in your life…

He has born in a tenant farmer’s house
one October afternoon
during the Great Depression
the first child of a sharecropper and his wife

a responsible boy
who loved chocolate
most of all his grandmother’s fudge
made especially for him
whenever he spent the night

listening to rain
dancing on the tin roof
like dozens of squirrel feet

a boy who took baths
in a galvanized tub
behind a curtain strung
from the heater
in the living room
(there was no indoor bathroom,
only an outhouse)

a boy who loved cars
who wrote about racing

a boy who loved planes
who grew up
to join the Air Force

(after graduating high school
as senior class president)

a young man far away from home
who learned to love
Mexican food

who returned to visit his grandmother
(Mama, he called her)
carrying her for a ride
in his new white Thunderbird
Hold onto your snuff jar,
Mama

who eventually went to work
as a security guard

then marrying a girl
with big dark eyes

becoming father
a year and a half later

there are black-and-white photos
of me in his lap
wearing his hard hat

me sandwiched
between him and his father
on the sofa
all looking as serious
as the Culhanes
on Hee Haw

I can see him
sitting in the corner
rag in hand
shining his work shoes
I can still smell
the acrid black polish
from the little round tin

him taking me
to buy a parakeet I’d begged for
(I wanted the blue and white one
he said the yellow one looked better
so that’s the one we got)

the hall light coming on
late at night
when an asthma attack
had me wheezing
him coming to give me Benadryl
(it didn’t help)

him setting up the vaporizer
with Vick’s poured in the little tray
(it didn’t help)

many trips to
the ear, nose, and throat doctor
for allergy shots
(they didn’t help)

him sitting beside me
in the waiting room
(that helped
more than he ever knew)

him standing by
holding my doll
looking green
as an orthopedist pulled
and pulled
and pulled
my broken arm
to set it

intervening
like a bolt of lightning
when I screamed

him working every holiday
for the extra pay

him in his chair
watching Sonny and Cher

him telling me
after I married
that if I ever needed to
I could come home

him in a hospital bed
refusing to be taken to the OR
for coronary bypass surgery
until I arrived
and he saw me

him consequently
giving up cigarettes
for cigars
(surely that didn’t help)

him facing battles
that most people
still don’t know about

I knew

him giving me a cross necklace
at a family funeral

me wearing it to his
after he went
so suddenly

funny how
I find myself thinking now
of his scowl
and his warning
Get off your high horse

and his irritation
when I was small
Stop smearing!

(does anyone else
on Earth
use that phrase
for wasting time)

and all the neighborhood kids saying
Your dad is so strict

he was

but then there was his laugh
his love of silly jokes

him listening
while I played my Billy Joel album
and astonishing me
by saying he liked that song,
Stiletto

I bet it was the beat

twenty years now
he’s been gone

not seeing my boys grow up
missing so much

once in a while,
they stand like him
move like him
scowl like him

he’d be amazed by them

and fascinated by how
they like many things he did
such as some of
the same old-time music

his little great-granddaughter
who shares his birth month
will not know him
any more than I knew Mama

only a year in the world
and she loves music
and is already
something of a notorious scowler

her dad says
her head is shaped
just like Granddaddy’s

—the exact thing
you said about me
when I was born

but it’s not Granddaddy’s visage
I glimpse in the mirror these days

it’s yours
more and more

in so many ways, Daddy,
like all the stories
we lived
and every one
you told and retold
blood keeps pounding its rhythms
the beat goes on

Mystery prompts…

As a follow-up to yesterday’s post, Exploring mysteries, here’s a list of questions that have magically appeared in my supposed-to-be-empty WordPress blog posts this month:

What is one thing that you would change about myself?

What are five things you’re good at?

Do you have a favorite place you’ve visited? Where is it?

What big events have taken place in your life over the last year?

What could you do less of?

Have you ever performed on stage or given a speech?

Tell about your first day at something—school, work, as a parent, etc.

What skills or lessons have you learned recently?

Is your life today where you pictured it a year ago?

All you writer-friends out there know the power of a good prompt for overcoming writer’s block, for reaching far and deep, tapping into memory and emotion. Writing itself is a release. It is healing. Perhaps even preventive medicine. Writing is a unique means of expression, of thinking, of creativity, of craftsmanship. It is a singular key for unlocking many mysteries, the greatest of all being yourself.

When gifts are offered, take them…they’re meant for your benefit, enjoyment, edification. The WordPress elves at work behind the scenes here clearly know this. These prompts are likely meant to be answered one by one (I have written to two: one thing I would change about myself and what skills I’ve learned recently) but today I wonder if I could tie them all into one reflection. For better or worse, here goes…

It is said that change is constant. I am constantly changing, growing older, a little slower. I would not change this. It is the price of having been alive a while. I’m willing to pay it. What one thing would I change about myself? My answer now would be different than it would have been years ago. I might have chosen something superficial, having to do with my appearance. Now I am much more concerned with my spirit. How do I narrow what I’d change to just one thing? I should choose to be more gracious, patient, forgiving, even loving…but as I write, the word listen blankets everything else that comes to mind. I would listen to others more. Not with my ears. With my soul. To hear what lies behind their words, their actions. Words are a thing I’m good with, usually. Were I to comprise a list of five things I’m good at, words are linked to at least half of it: I’m good at reading, writing (so I’m told…I do love it and work at it), imagining, wondering, and drinking coffee. In a way these are the five pillars of my daily life, the things I enjoy most, next to time spent with my family. When my boys were small my grandmothers told me that I was a good mother. Their simple proclamation, a revelation of their great esteem for motherhood, felt like the bestowment of a royal title. My boys have the final say, however. Children know all their parents’ flaws, eventually. What matters is that they know how much they are loved and that they learn to love. It is the beginning of belonging. It is why, when asked if I have a favorite place, I’m always going to talk about my grandparents’ home deep in the countryside, along an old dirt road (it’s gravel now). I haven’t been since the house has been torn down and a new one built for a young family. While I dread going because of that, another part of me desperately longs to go…to walk the old road once more, to remember being a child, hearing my grandmother’s old, old stories and my grandfather’s raspy, warm I love you when he offered his clean-shaven cheek to me for a goodnight kiss… again, listen. I imagine sensing them near even if all I hear is the breeze rustling the Spanish moss which wasn’t there, hanging there from the treetops, when I was a child. Once upon a time, though, there were little bridges along the road, due to the many canals…I don’t know what became of those bridges. But the tiny church at the crossroads remains, where my grandparents are buried with generations of my ancestors. One day soon, I must go. I carry them all and their stories with me… I am their story, the continuation of it, as my granddaughters are mine. They are the greatest event of my life in the last three years, one coming into our family at age three and the other born just over a year ago. They are the big event of my every day. I can almost hear Grandma chuckling…now you understand. Listen, listen. Carve time away from the clamor of the world to be still…to minimize distractions, to be fully present when another human is speaking to me, especially my young ones, especially my quiet son with the musical gifts and beautiful singing voice. So many layers there. Listen. I need to be less concerned with work; it is my livelihood, not my life. The family is my life. My pastor-husband, my pastor-son and his girls, The Boy and his music and funeral ministry, all our dogs, the church, the faith, the Lord God, Giver of all good gifts, including life, are my life. How perfect are His ways. Long ago when I was performing in plays and traveling to audition for acting school in New York, I could not have dreamed it would lead me to where I am now, that at nineteen I’d meet the man I’d marry through community theater. The title of that play: Whose Life Is It Anyway? Not just mine. Ours. It was ordained. I had an inkling of it, that first day after we were married, when we stood in the crashing ocean waves and I held onto my new gold wedding band for dear life, for fear of losing it. I knew salt isn’t good for jewelry. I just couldn’t bring myself to remove the ring. New beginnings are so fragile at first. As are new ideas. All these years into our journey, we still look for the new even within the old: we are going to learn how to use that Dobsonian telescope I got us for Christmas. We shall soon be wandering among the stars, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, all extending their glittering invitation every cold, cold night. I just learned I wasn’t using the finderscope properly. How poetic. Metaphorical. That’s what writing is for me… a finderscope. Through it I see the memories, the gratitude, the loves of my life…the light from years past, still meeting me right where I am today; I would not change a thing about that.

*******

with thanks to WordPress for the magical prompts and to Two Writing Teachers for the story-sharing place.

Happy holidays to all.

Exploring mysteries

Imagine my recent astonishment on sitting down to compose a blog post and finding a question already typed into the empty template…I wrote about this occurrence in The question.

Every day since, a new question has appeared in my empty post template, as if my Muse has suddenly taken control of WordPress. Some magic or benevolent ghost is surely at work here…thank you, whoever and whatever you are. I am compiling your daily questions for future use. I shall respond to today’s: “What skills or lessons have you learned recently?”

I am learning, Oracle-esque Blog, even as I write this post with a dozen windows open behind it, how to operate a Dobsonian reflector telescope.

Here’s why:

December nights
Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn
shine bright


beckoning:

Mere mortal
made of stardust

(for all humans are)

—come and see
our infinite mystery

And so I must
before my temporal self

sleeps in Earth’s crust

Stay tuned on this astronomical adventure, friends…

The edge of understanding

It is said that
instruction should begin
at the edge of understanding

I know this edge

where the solid ground ends
and the unknown begins

all certainty suspended
as the mists roll in
obscuring the chasm
before me

I would linger here
until the end of my days
on the foundations that
sustained me thus far

if not for the Guide
speaking one step
at a time
into being

only materializing
when I place my foot
forward
to find a firmness
beneath
before I can
fully see

a little
of the mist clears
while the edge
on which I’m standing
under construction
is expanding

At the Edge of the Caldera… ER’s Eyes – Our planet is beautiful. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.