Ash Wednesday: Trusting in the Sun

Ash Wednesday: Trusting in the Sun

 

It will return. It is

returning. Six o’clock

and already the winter candle

light is not a sharp

circle on the table.

 

It was a tough

winter, a tough fall.

Four dead, your own

new scars, the surprise

of seventy years.

 

You’re needing morning

bird song—a robin,

a cardinal. You’re needing

good news. And today

the reversal—just as the sun

 

is warming through the wind,

as the maples are giving 

their juice, your old

religion makes it Lent.

Well, all right.

 

If the meat is gone,

you might as well fast.

Someday again, days

will be longer than nights.

You just have to wait.

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CONSIGNMENT

 

 

CONSIGNMENT

One day you finally

got tired of thinking

about dying. About 

your body and its little

woes. You understood

there’s a world 

out there beyond

your skin that doesn’t

care a fig or a thistle

what you’re thinking,

where you go,

whether you live

or not.

That was the day

you consigned yourself

to your dust,

and, like Job,

declared yourself

content.

JANUARY THAW

JANUARY THAW

   

The best snow in years,

everything shining,

simple and perfect.

It didn’t last long.

 

And now, rain. Snow to slush

to ice. I tried to tell

my old friend that winter

here is beautiful,

 

tried to get her to go out in the cold

and sun and the diamond air.

She always said that clouds

made her dizzy.

 

She died

on a sunny morning before 

the rain began.

Not a cloud in the sky.

 

 

~Remembering S.M., 10/1927-1/2019

ADVENT, 16

ADVENT

 

16.

   ~John 11

 

Why did he weep?

 

There is a calculation here:

Wait till the corpse stinks.

It is never too late

for the elect to be raised

if they are properly wrapped,

if they’ve waited in solitude and dark

long enough to know their fear,

if they have been properly mourned.

 

But why did you let him weep?

 

And that curious prophecy

from the high priest’s mouth—

he was blind, I suppose,

but speaking from second sight

and not of himself

but of God’s chosen children.

This I understand.

 

But why, John Gosepeller,

did you make your Jesus weep?

WARNING

WARNING

Dear ones,

Beware of the tiny gods frightened men

Create

          ~Hafiz, “Tiny Gods”

Beware of tiny gods,

so easily displeased

when humans break

the rules. The ones 

who are obsessed

with doom, allow 

no room for breath 

or ease. The tiny gods

who make the fear 

of life and death, 

who mistrust peace,

who are themselves,

and made by, fools.

FOUR POEMS FOR ELIZABETH

FOUR POEMS FOR ELIZABETH

Feb. 1904–Sept. 1998

1.

You always made me tea.

The love and sorrow of your life

tangible in your kitchen

as sunlight through the windows:

your husband dead, your son, 

barn crumbled, pastures overgrown.

 

You carried the tray yourself. 

Slow, but I always get there.  

At the table you poured Earl Grey 

from the green pot into thin cups,

gave me homemade cake, a linen napkin.

 

Outside, daffodils and appletrees,

irises, roses, blew wild in tangled beds.

What’s the worst thing that can happen to me,

here, alone in this house?  I’ll die?

Your elegant French gesture of dismissal, 

the amusement in your eyes.

 

2.

One day I said had no time for tea

but you would not let me go:

 Nonsense!  No time! 

We stood by the sink, 

nibbled date cookies from a tin.

More;  they’re so good.  

I’ve been saving them for you.  

Have more.

 

The first stroke carried you back 

to the house by the lake

where you spent seventy summers.

You laughed from the hospital bed,

your eyes open to the sky. 

Waves shimmered through your ceiling.

Can you smell the water?

Can you hear the gulls?

 

When that last boat came to carry you away 

 you shrugged and smiled again.

Home or abroad, it doesn’t really matter.

There’s goodness everywhere I go.  

 

3.

The day you died, I was picking apples,  

snapping them easy off the trees.

Above the orchard, two ravens

and a red-tailed hawk spiraled

in a kettle of rising air 

and I heard your voice.  

Acceptance, you said, remember.

Remember, to every thing a season.  

 

When the harvest was over

I drove to your house alone.

Someone had raked the leaves from your garden, 

piled pumpkins on the wide stone step.

Under the rippled clouds

a ragged scatter of snow geese

so high I could barely hear their call.

 

4.

You’d had a sheepdog years ago

who woke you one November night.

Your husband got up to open the door,

saw the heavy falling snow.

That dog went up the hill to find the sheep.

We didn’t even know it was snowing.

She put them all in the barn, 

came in, lay down like nothing had happened

Why can’t people be like that?

Pay attention to things?

 

I don’t leave my friends,

I told you, but I did.

Somehow, with all the miles between,

I could not find a time.

 

We sat one afternoon 

in your cooky-scented kitchen,

looked out at the snow falling on your garden.

You began Frost’s poem about the crow

and the hemlock, and I joined in.

We laughted to know

we loved it best.

 

I would like one more cup of tea with you,

just one more.

 

 

(It’s been 20 years, and I still miss her.)

RALPH NADING HILL CONTEST WINNER, MARCH 31, 2004