Monday, December 24, 2012

December 24


Silent night!
Holy night!
All is calm,
All is bright...

...They say that year that errant mice
Had chewed the organ bellows through --
With Father Joseph in the lurch
On Christmas Eve: the mass was soon,
Keyboard kaput: ah, what to do?
So on the organist's advice,
He wrote words to a simple tune
To play that night for all the church.

The pews were full, the candles blazed;
They sang the folklike melody
(Fritz strummed the chords on his guitar)
And yet: the listening church fell muted
As though it held eternity;
With all of Heaven stunned, amazed,
Angelic counterpoint refuted
By childlike song from Earth afar.

And even now the magic lingers.
It's hard to ruin, as carols go,
Played on mall speakers (even canned) --
And hectic shoppers pause a while
In pensive thought, and sometimes grow
Quite misty-eyed -- till restless fingers
Wheel their cart, hungry, down the aisle
In search of the next deal at hand.


Stille Nacht!
Heilige Nacht!
Alles schläft,
Einsam wacht…

...For months the desperate armies both had fought
And dearly paid in human life; they sought
To push across the top and through the mud
And win their prize -- the next trench filled with blood.
As meteor-like the hurtling missiles fell
In endless stream to turn the world to Hell,
They charged in hope; they bled, they died, they feared.
And still the war dragged on…and Christmas neared.

And in the German lines one winter night
The Allied soldiers saw a flickering light.
Another came: a Christmas tree was braced
Against the maze of twisted wire they faced.
From nowhere -- so it seemed -- the singing rose.
And who can say which wary side first chose
To lift the flag of truce in trembling hand
And, risking all, climb into no-man's-land?

…But someone did. "No shooting!" came the call,
And "Frohe Weinachten!" -- As one and all
Emerged, they swapped their handshakes and their smokes
And traded tales of family, and jokes;
And as their newborn trust, still fragile, grew,
They sang as one the carol they all knew,
Brought food to trade and gifts from home to share
As snowflakes softly spiraled through the air --
And there between death's valleys played a game
Of soccer (Fußball, by its German name),
With caps for goalposts, though the wind was chilling.
(...Next day, of course, they all went back to killing.)


Silent night!
Holy night!
Son of God,
Love's pure light...

…The little hut beneath the stars lay hushed,
The streets asleep; and in the early morn
The Saviour of the world at last was born,
His cradle by white doves' wings gently brushed.

And as the night passed, in the people swarmed
To see the promised babe, his reign begun.
Great king and shepherd humbly knelt as one;
The music swelled, the dawnlight grew and warmed --

And all throughout the town smiles flashed, hearts leapt;
And high above the shining stable winging
A thousand angels burst out sweetly singing;
The sun rose, and the world was changed…

The powers that ruled Rome were not perturbed.
New wars were launched; men's lives and wine still sold,
Peace taxed and freedom measured out in gold
As Caesar's rule went on (quite undisturbed).

In Bethlehem the bright song changed to tears;
Another Roman governor ascended;
A thousand rebels' lives (or two) were ended
To keep the peace -- just like in other years.

And down in Nazareth, alone, rejected,
A little boy sat head in hands and wept
Whose teenage mother (gossips said) had slept
With some strange man.
                                                                    ...what had we expected?

For it is clear -- if ever there was doubt --
The truest magic moment cannot save us;
For all the snowfall's gleaming purity,
The memories of childhood Christmasses,
Angelic song; and our forgotten yearnings
That break upon us unawares and leave
Us trembling with a strange lump in our throat;
New-risen stars, the birth of Love itself --

All pass. The stars wheel slowly west, and set;
The crisp-edged snowflake's fractal clarity
Dissolves to formless water in our grasp;
The piercing icicle, too, melts and blurs,
Our dreams fade like the finely-patterned frost;
And though eternity may in a flash
Be grasped, the afterimage tends to die
Too quickly, with our half-voiced, weak resolve.

And all the world around us, too intent
On dragging us back into tepid slumber
(Our habits well-formed for its benefit);
And Time, for all its vastness, has a way
Of sliding seamless past our clinging hands
As we sit, patient, waiting for salvation,
The heroes of our worship doomed to fall --
To watch our world's long nightmare still drag on.

All will be well (some say, in blithe assurance)
And all things will be well at last -- perhaps;
But only with our doing. None will change
This ravaged, suffering world, but you and me --
And, saving it, ourselves to be redeemed.
No, not through Advent's episodic grace
But by what still awaits: the tedious slog
Through all the long mundanity of winter.


O come, grownups, Kinder;
O come one and all:
In awe come and enter
This strange starlit stall;
Done with our long waiting,
See Love's new-breathed birth;
And go, then, creating
Our long yearned-for earth.

Come child and come mystic,
Come old and come young,
Believer and skeptic;
Our song but half-sung,
All moved by the mystery
Of this grace unearned,
Warned by our dark history
And all we have learned.

For Advent is done now,
Yet still we know fear;
Our work just begun now
(And night lingers near) --
But, in dawn's faint gleaming,
Come quickly to see
The world of our dreaming
That someday might be.


So: this is the beginning. …Now my tale
Is told; the coals banked, dimmed our fire's heat;
And round the windows blows the rising gale.

Perhaps, before night ends, there will be sleet.
Yet inside there is warmth; true, walls may fail;
But in sun's rising, we may yet defeat

All terrors which our hands freed from their tether.
…For good or ill, our time of choice draws near;
And January's hail and howling weather

Still lie ahead. Undaunted, then, by fear,
And led by love -- come, let us now together
Go forth, in hope, into this newborn year.

(The End.)

Sunday, December 23, 2012

December 23

He lived above the land in terraced tower
A prince by birth where most were but a pawn
He took his lessons at the school of power
And roamed the winding maze of Babylon

And they told him that the moon had turned to scarlet
And they said the sun had darkened at his birth
The favored firstborn to the age's harlot:
The Antichrist who must destroy the earth.

With his destined foe
The war must soon begin
And it must be so
No matter what he willed
That they both must fight
For only one could win
Black or white, kill or be killed --
For every prophecy must be fulfilled.

Long years he watched the skies for his arrival
A Healer King who would the world unite
And raised a force against his fated rival
A horde of black to slay the Lord of Light

Then on his dark horse riding out to slaughter
As silver trumpets echoed from on high
And stars rained down into the blazing water
He thundered out his challenge to the sky

But silent fell the fountain
And none came to oppose him
No echo from the mountain
And dark the stars that chose him
The combat raged around his rasping breath
And yet the only foe he saw -- was Death.


He threw his sword into the lake of fire
Dismissed the army, bade the battle cease
Fair flowers blossomed in the blackened mire
The mountain waste became a land of peace

He called the crowds in through the great gates streaming
Laid down his crown and left his gilded throne;
Green grew the vineyards round the cities gleaming
A realm where love and justice ruled alone.

The years passed and he couldn't help but ponder
On why his adversary never came
And to the Sybil's cave resolved to wander
To see his face and know the strange man's name

She led him in and to his story listened
Into the glassy waters bid him stare
He gazed in as the mystic fountain glistened
And saw his own reflection mirrored there.

With his destined foe
The war must soon begin
And it must be so
No matter what he willed
That they both must fight
For only one could win
Black or white, kill or be killed --
For every prophecy must be fulfilled.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

December 22

As I walked through the cold night of a dream
Air crisp and wind-chilled, half moon almost set,
The drops that seeped on stone shone icy wet,
Mist in faint film beneath stars' paling gleam;
And glancing up I spotted in the west
A new star like a dull red eye that burned,
And tracked its path down twisting roads that turned
To wind above the sleeping city's crest.

And on the hill I saw a shadow stand
In stone-like stillness perched above the world
With feathered darkness at his back unfurled,
A tapered length of blackness in his hand
That hissed and smouldered in the falling light;
I, knowing him, choked out: "Then you have come
To end all things?" His voice like crystal hum
Serene remarked: "It will begin tonight."

As he spoke on I stood, struck mute by awe:
"New young thrive and their elders pass away;
Your haughty race has had its sunlit day --
Why should you be immune to natural law?
The great age of the trilobites lies far;
The mammoths are no more; and in the deep
The kingly lizards lie in stately sleep
Their passing heralded, too, by a star.

By his son Zeus, the God of Time was slain
Who killed his father; just so are your hands
Stained with your Mother Earth's blood that demands
Fair retribution." Knowing it in vain,
Yet I began my plea. "Another chance --
I beg, have mercy; still among us dwell
Some who would change our course --" …And silent fell
Pierced by a single adamantine glance.

"You waste your breath," he said. "I may not yield.
I am but a sword-bearer and a voice;
The doom that I declare is of your choice
Soon wrought by forces you presumed to wield."
"And still --" I challenged -- "though all hope is banished,
I swear to fight you yet and never tire."
And with a smile like subatomic fire
He soundlessly saluted me, and vanished.

December 21

On Solstice Morning

I had imagined light this morn
that in the pale east rose reborn
at sun's return this first young day
as through the mists a rift was torn

and slowly woke the leaden grey
of cloud to brilliant display,
as mingled flame in flooding swell
above the waiting city lay

and on the banks of towers fell
to burn away the outer shell
and turn to spears of golden glare
the teeming hives where mortals dwell

and fierce and trembling shook the air
and stripped each lingering shadow bare
each moment stronger still it grew
with every heartbeat more aware

the colours clearer and more true
the old familiar world we knew
at once dissolved and lost in light
and of its radiance forged anew

So at the ending of the night
I woke from scattered dreams of fright
and to the window went to try
in furtive hope, this longed-for sight:

instead, the same cold dismal sky
unchanged and barren met my eye:
the falling raindrops mixed with snow
above the crowds that hurried by

But in pursuit of dazzling show
we in this darkened world below
deceived by gleam and glittering rays
fall blind to our own hidden glow

and dimly stumbling through our days
forget the light that would amaze
and kindle all the world to flame
if we allowed ourselves to blaze.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

December 20

A Lullaby For Solstice Evening

World gently slipping
Into its rest
Sun slowly dipping
From east to west
South's day abiding,
North's longest night,
Sharply dividing
Darkness and light:
Waxing moon beaming, stars gently gleaming,
Humankind, tell me, what is your dreaming?
Lullaby, o, lullaby!
Dream and dream till day is nigh.

Little world spinning
Round in your sleep
Dream of beginning
Time buried deep
Ash of Sol's burning
Meteor and flame
That set you turning
And spoke your name:
Earthquake and thunder, land rent asunder,
Nova and starlight watching in wonder:
Lullaby, o, lullaby!
Dream and dream till day is nigh.

Dream of lost ages
Wandering through space
Lava's fierce rages
Sea's warm embrace
Fertile green spilling
Onto the shore
Bright birdcall trilling,
Lizard's fierce roar;
Climbing and leaping, silent and creeping,
Life in its richness placed in your keeping:
Lullaby, o, lullaby!
Dream and dream till day is nigh.

Dream your new choices
As your race stands
Thought in your voices,
Flame in your hands;
See cities tower
Fields ripe with grain;
Desperate for power,
Yet moved by pain;
Youngest and yearning, eager and learning,
Could this be, then, the year of your turning?
Lullaby, o, lullaby!
Dream and dream till day is nigh.

Dream, too, of nightmare,
Grief unallayed
Fathomless fright where
All is betrayed,
Starfall and slaughter,
Vain your last flight,
Ruthless the water,
Endless your night;
Winning or losing, fate of your choosing,
Darkest despair but in your refusing:
Lullaby, o, lullaby!
Dream and dream till day is nigh.

Dream of dawn breaking
Days not yet known
When you come waking
Into your own
Wisdom and laughter
Love and rebirth
Long the years after
On the green earth
Old hatreds rending, new tales unending,
All recreated in the world's mending:
Dream, o dream, of rising sun.
Dream, o dream, of day begun.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

December 19

In the bleak midwinter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone.
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter,
Long ago.

In the green midwinter
We know naught of frost;
Wind bears but warm weather,
Snow and ice long-lost.
Day on day still dripping
Falls the dismal rain,
Endless teardrops slipping
Down our windowpane.

Some still tell the stories
Of the winters bright:
Sparkling world of glories
And a sea of white
Horse-drawn sleighs came jingling
By the snowflakes brushed
Faces gently tingling
And the world all hushed.

Come our brown midsummer
Heatwaves shall return
Crops shall parch and wither
Tree and grassland burn
Leaf on dead leaf rasping
In the heavy haze
As we stumble, gasping
Through the shadeless days.

...Ah, but in our dreaming
We were there one night:
'Mid the jeweled trees gleaming
All the world turned white
Into soft drifts springing
Pinpricks on our face
Out our young arms flinging
Angels' wings to trace.

Snowballs soon were flying
Snowmen quickly rolled
Forts and armies vying
Laughing in the cold
Down the hillside sliding
To the crystal stream
There on swift skates gliding --
Must it be a dream?

You who knew the Earth white,
See the world you built;
Though you stole our birthright
Yet we bear your guilt.
Wistful in our fleeting
Childhood here below --
Christ Child, hear our pleading:
Bring us back the snow.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

December 18

This time around there was no doubt;
The stars were watched, signs read aright,
And urgent messengers sent out
To find the new babe born that night.

Then, his precise location learned,
All of the earth's great leaders went
To see the Saviour who'd returned;
Both CEO and President,

Dictators, UN delegates,
Church clerics with their solemn prayers,
Fund managers and heads of states,
And all the Forbes list billionaires.

While to the east and west was beamed
The breaking news: "Christ born again!"
With updates and live footage streamed
To YouTube and to CNN;

Then -- the announcer's voice here broke --
Before the crib they humbly knelt
And, Teleprompted, smoothly spoke
In tones sincere and truly felt;

"O Child, both light and life you bring --
O Child, what would you have us do?
What gifts to give, what hymns to sing
To reverence and honor you?"

"O, bring to me no gems or gold,
But honor others in their need
And freely give the wealth you hold,
To vanquish now your ravening greed;

And sing no hymn, but rather hear
From all around the desperate cries;
Go forth to help both far and near
The multitudes that you despise;

No more exploit, but fairly pay
Each of the workers you employ
And let all children learn and play,
So each may know a life of joy.

And let the air be fresh and clean,
And let my creatures freely roam,
And turn your ravaged wastes to green
So all may share this world as home.

All conflict cease, all debts forgive;
Seek those you've scorned to make amends;
And from this day forth truly live
The precepts each of you pretends.

And speak no longer in my name
Nor put my image to misuse
For all your deeds of greatest shame
Have taken me as your excuse."

The simple words rang clear and stark;
Applause was heard worldwide -- but lo!
The faces of the kings grew dark
And all their tone was one of woe.

The angry mutters filled the room:
"Such sacrifice, such rapid change...
It's quite a lot that you presume.
What do you offer in exchange?

Indeed, an infant still (though crowned
By some quirk of astronomy) --
How could you know such things are bound
To wreck the world economy?"

"My Father's world so bright and fair
Was made not for your kind alone
But for my creatures everywhere;
How dare you claim it as your own?

How dare with casual cruelty take
My Father's gift of human life
And buy and barter it to make
A pawn in all your scheming strife?

Now, through the time of your own birth,
I offer you this chance unique:
Together make this fragile Earth
The longed-for paradise all seek.

Who heeds the warning that I bring?
Who comes in answer to my call?
For if you seek to be a king,
A servant you must be to all."

The seven billions rejoiced;
The lords all tore their clothes and wept
And ominous predictions voiced
As, innocent, the Christ Child slept,

And looking on without a word
The cleric who had found the place;
Head humbly bowed at what he'd heard,
A thoughtful smile upon his face.

The servers crashed, the press phones rang,
Stocks slumped, and Tweets flew thick and fast,
While in the streets the flash mobs sang
The ancient fallen age had passed;

And as the new dawn brilliant broke --
The cheers rose high, the chimes rang wild --
In slipped the one who never spoke
And silent slew the sleeping child.

Monday, December 17, 2012

December 17

Part 3

Sing a new song to the Lord;
Trumpet forth the joyous chord!
For the reign of hate is ended,
God to humankind descended,
Newborn helpless on the straw --

Sing a new song to the Lord,
Shout for freedom in accord;
Fear no tyrant, death, nor prison,
Lo! His star has Eastwards risen;
Trust the wonders that you saw --

Sing a new song to the Lord,
Open, hands, spill forth your hoard!
Value love, not love of power,
Peace let blossom, justice flower,
Empathy be your new law --

Sing a new song to the Lord,
All creation be restored,
Tend His gift of Earth together,
Hare and human, fin and feather;
Lift this weeping world to awe --

Sunday, December 16, 2012

December 16

(Or, On Employees Who Take Too Much Initiative)

For Brigette DePape

This memo's to apologize
Regarding last week's hassle;
On St. Steve's Day, just past sunrise,
I gazed out from my castle.
It was a lovely day, in brief;
I almost had to sing;
How privileged, to be a Chief
Executive and King.

And looking out I saw, that dawn,
Some huts in poor condition
And found myself reflecting on
(Time-honored) our tradition:
Dispensing at one lucky door
A little food and fuel
So as to give the working poor
A nicer time at Yule.

My page was summoned and assigned
The job (it was quite clear):
To search our database and find
Some peasants living near
At whose house we could do a stop
With food and royal crown
(It makes a perfect photo op
And helps keep riots down.)

I saw the kid's eyes lighting up
(Right then I should have known);
He grabbed his pen and coffee cup
And yanked out his iPhone.
(At his request -- to my regret --
I'd had the castle wired
For high-speed wireless internet.
I should have had him fired.)

All day -- he didn't take lunch break --
We heard his keyboard clack
(My PA said, "Oh, for God's sake.
Can I give him a smack?")
And then we saw him every hour
As he popped in to ask
Some question (answered with a glower.
Could he not stay on task?)

Then he was back: to make a fuss.
"About that rural diet --
It's healthier: for Earth, and us.
I quite think we should try it.
The castle banquets: can't we make
Them veggie once a week?
Let's do it for the planet's sake.
(Besides, it's rather chic.)

Our castle's more than --" (On he went;
He couldn't take a hint) --
"Three thousand fifty nine percent
The average footprint.
With global warming, furthermore --"
(I didn't want to know)
"-- We don't have any freezing poor,
Because we don't have snow!"

The kid was driving me berserk
And my prep time was fleeting;
I told him to get back to work --
Just then, they called the meeting.
I couldn't help but feel dismay;
I told him to keep muzzled;
He promised me that he'd obey
(Though he looked rather puzzled.)

But then it happened. On a whim,
Quite to my consternation,
A trusting colleague called on him
To make his presentation.
And (though I now foresaw a tiff)
Could only think "Oh crap…"
As he pulled up his spreadsheet with
The calculator app.

"It's great to stand before you kings;
And as we meet today,"
(He said) -- "I'd like to look at things
A slightly different way.
St. Stephen's Feast: a time of love
For all the human race.
Let's tackle the root causes of
The problems that we face.

Some simple goals (I've chosen three)
Like worldwide education,
Eradicating poverty,
And proper sanitation
Would cost a simple fraction
Of the money we make here;
It's time we took some action
To spread lasting Christmas cheer!

To keep Earth within two degrees,
Stop heatwaves and the polar
Melt -- why are serfs still burning trees?
Let's put them all on solar.
We've got to end reliance
On those dirty carbon fuels
As basic climate science
Says (unless we're total fools)."

He'd gotten one thing right, I fear:
The atmosphere was heating --
I couldn't speak for Earth -- just here
Inside the boardroom meeting.
All round the table came the sighs;
I gazed up at the ceiling,
And saw some others roll their eyes
And wince. (I knew the feeling.)

Oblivious, the upstart page
Went on with his digression:
"If we paid serfs a decent wage
We'd fix the world recession.
And in five years (if we're on track)
I can foresee us ending
Most child deaths -- with a slight cutback
In military spending."

Well, that was it. He'd crossed the line.
"Sit down!" All through the hall
The voices rose (and loudest, mine);
The speech became a brawl.
My colleagues all began to shout;
The glares were like a laser;
Security soon dragged him out.
(They had to use the taser.)

So we all know who was to blame.
It's not what I intended.
(In fact I'm deeply shocked; he came
So highly recommended.)
Well, needless to confirm: he's through.
Escort him to the borders,
And find a page who won't try to
Elaborate on orders.


(End of Part 2.)

Saturday, December 15, 2012

For the Children of the Sandy Hook Tragedy (December 15)

Down brightly shone the morning sun
Upon a little girl and boy,
And as the day was new begun
They played and spoke of Christmas joy.

And when the clock began to chime,
In Mother came and heard them sing.
  O Mother, what is Christmastime?
And what shall Christmas morning bring?

  At Christmastime the snow gleams white;
We celebrate the Saviour's birth;
And Santa Claus on Christmas Night
Brings children toys all o'er the earth.

So ring the room with boughs of pine,
And burn the candles bright and clear,
And trim the tree with silver shine:
No evil thing may enter here.

All feel the Joy the season brings,
All sing the songs of Peace and Love --
For at fair Christmastime all things
Are well on earth, with God above.

  The little girl skipped off to play,
Each doll a Christ Child newly born;
And as she dreamt of Christmas Day
Her brother went to school that morn.

The phone rang shrill, the mother cried,
The sirens screamed in ceaseless wail;
They brought her to her brother's side;
Like ice he lay all cold and pale.

  O Mother, Mother, answer why --
What of the tales I heard you tell?
Were all the songs of Joy a lie?
Is all at Christmastime not well?

  The silence fell like heavy stones;
Then as the winter winds that blow
She heard her mother's whispered tones
That cracked and broke and murmured low.

  At Christmas many know no Love;
No Santa comes on Christmas Eve;
And that there dwells a God above
I know not if I do believe.

And some go hungry, some grow old,
And there is fear and death and pain;
Some have no mother's hand to hold;
And soon the snow may all be rain.

Then ring the room with boughs of pine,
And burn the candles bright and clear,
And trim the tree with silver shine:
Yet evil still may enter here.

The terrors lurk, the shadows prowl
Around our wreath of candlelight;
Beyond our warmth the wild winds howl;
The day is dark, and swift the night.

December 14

  Some say, on that first morning of Christ's birth
An unseen voice swept over land and sea
Crying mournful, Pan is dead --
The Great God Pan is dead;

   And ever since, the ancient gods have dwindled;
Exiled by cold iron or cathedral chimes,
Hiding in deepest cave and shadowed forest
Waiting silent for a change of days
And for their own dominion to return.
   And, 'tis true, their altars lie untended;
No ecstatic initiates dance Pan's mysteries
And Adonis goes, now, unwept each spring;
The Sybil's cave lies hollow and empty
To echo only the dreams of ages past.

   But I imagine, instead:
Before sunrise on that first Advent morn
Another group assembling in the stable
Amidst the kneeling shepherds and kings
(Unseen to the mortals rejoicing there) --
That tall silent figures lit by inner starlight
Gathered in awe around the little bed:

   That Artemis laid down her silver bow, Aries his sword
Poseidon his fierce earth-shaking trident
And rough Haephestus, tears glinting in his eyes,
With one craggy hand gently stroked the child's brow;
That Athena bowed to Wisdom itself, Aphrodite to Beauty,
And Eros to a Love greater than any his arrows held;
That Pan and Hermes, laughter and trickery forgotten, fell solemn,
That great Apollo removed his brilliant crown
And even grim Hades in silent salute lowered his head --

   And others came, from distant times and places
Osiris and Tiamat, Lugh and Mithra
The dark and light, the ancient and young gods
Of hillside and stream, flower and flame
All burning with the steady glow of eternity
And bending low in joy before the manger;

   And Zeus the Sky King, kneeling, spoke:

  O Creator, All-Mother and Father
Beyond even the Earth and Sky that gave us birth --
At last, the long-awaited day has come:

   We abdicate our power

   Long we nurtured this strange newborn race
On which your divine favour rests
We saw their first footsteps in desert sand
Heard their first words, as they spoke
No longer in the tongues of beasts, but gods;
We sent Prometheus with the spark from heaven,
Demeter with her golden grain, Athena her skills
And, yes, watched many a Pandora,
Man or woman, loose the bounds of evil;
Then to Aries the multitudes paid homage
And helpless we watched young and old perish.

   Long they worshiped us, long feared us
Our wild power, cruel capriciousness
Long entreated us when overwhelmed
By storm or drought; love or war
With ritual and revelry, seas of sacrificial blood,
Fervent prayer and hushed mountain oracle
Crying out to us to stay our hands
But we cannot act other than our nature;
Imprisoned in immortality, we may never change

   But now their infancy has passed

   Now a new age is begun
And another covenant is written
For you have come to take their shape
No longer need they worship us, the Gods of the earth
For their own God dwells among them

   And in their maturity and growing knowledge
They may divine our secrets
Plumb the source of our power
Of sun and lightning, ocean and sky,
And shape strange new dreamings beyond our ken --
For you have willed nothing should be hidden from them

   We ask this alone:
   That you grant they should not despise us
They shall dwell among us, but not above us:
Their elder brothers and sisters, guides and teachers
No longer their masters, but neither their servants
The creation is not theirs to exploit
And our realms are not theirs to destroy
And if they abuse their power, we shall rise.

   …And the child glanced from one face to another,
And cooing gently, smiled his consent.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

December 13

Midwinter Nocturne

...Now is the time of contrast and incision.
Sleet hardens, and the smooth crust tolerates
No imprint. Underfoot the fresh snow grates,
Each flake wrought in sharp-faceted precision.
The falls hang frozen in eternity,
Sound sharpens; bright, the winter starscape rises,
And all that summer mingled, crystallizes
Into its unalloyed identity.

The tracery of woven light on dark
Each night more keen; like, gossamer, my breath
Emerging from the air, I hear a voice:
"The paths of hope and terror, life and death,
Divide now. -- And, humanity, your choice?"
…The whispered words like splintered ice are stark.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

December 12

I quit.
            I've handed in my resignation --
This job is one continual aggravation;
I'm feeling uninspired.
It's time that I retired;
I've given it, yes, due consideration.

And on this all-too warm December night
The sleigh is loaded for the final flight.
Half-finished toys are packed;
The workshop tables stacked.
For once (thank God) we're going to travel light.

Old Rudolph and the others look relieved;
(I feel the same, though I'll admit I grieved) --
I very well recall
That every year, come fall,
They'd gotten grumpy and the elves all peeved.

Each morning brings a starving polar bear;
The pools of melting snow are everywhere;
The ice floes keep on shrinking,
My workshop's started sinking,
And none of you much really seem to care.

So off we'll travel to a distant land;
I'll miss the children's letters (done by hand),
Toys built and wrapped with love,
The Northern Lights above --
But soon there won't be any place to stand.

O for those first flights, once upon a time
When to the echo of some silver chime
Into the air we flew
To soar on southward, through
A starlit sky still free from smog and grime.

Now from the sleigh we peer down through the gloom
(Our noses running from some deadly fume)
To see the trees replaced
With pits and sludge and waste
That bear a strong resemblance to Mount Doom.

And having felt for years in endless volley
The consequences of your global folly:
An Earth that's deathly sick --
This jolly old Saint Nick,
Though older now, is quite a bit less jolly.

Don't get me started, too, on my frustrations
With iPhones, DVDs, Wii's, and Playstations...
Who vetoed books and trains?
I fear for children's brains
(And, even more so, their imaginations).

I'm sick of simply bringing what I'm told;
Deliverymen are not supposed to scold.
You write the list, I trim it --
But now I've reached my limit.
Who'd give an iPod to a 4-year old?

And -- CEOs -- the workers that you hire
To make those soaring profits you admire,
For just a buck a day:
I'd think that you could pay
To stop them all from dying in a fire.

The earth's not something we can Supersize
Unlike the rest of what you advertise.
(You think your life's a bore?
That's right, go shop some more.
Don't call me when the oceans start to rise.)

And you elected reps that can't stop squawking
To drill and burn the fossil fuels you're hawking...
Perhaps you'll change your mind
When you wake up to find
A lump of coal inside your Christmas stocking.

The world should have enough to go around...
But human greed just knows no upper bound
(Nor is my sleigh expanding;
With all that you're demanding
This year, I doubt we'd get it off the ground.)

You've quite mistaken my intent, I fear.
I said: spread love and joy and Christmas cheer,
Not this mad rush of buying…
I guess I'm done with trying.
You'll have to find your own goodwill this year.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

December 11

They say on that first Advent night
As shepherds shuddered, felled by light,
The choirs of angels through the sky
In voices pure and sweet did cry:

"Fear not!

Fear not, O poor humanity -
No - cease to tremble, rise and see
His love as light from heaven stream.
Flee, Wrath, for Mercy reigns supreme!
We sing tonight of boundless joy.
To you is born a baby boy
In Bethlehem: this Shepherd King
Shall bear your sins through suffering.
Beneath his reign all strife shall cease -
Goodwill to all, and on earth peace.
Lo! Christ is come with you to dwell,
The Lord of Love, Emmanuel."


Since then have passed two thousand years
And more. Yet still, as that night nears,
New voices echo all around
To lull us with their gentle sound
And all the Advent season long
Peal forth their reassuring song:

"Fear not!

Fear not the lies of man's devising,
Of climate change and oceans rising;
Come hurricane or drought-parched land -
Our great God has it all in hand.
If ice caps melt, if forests burn,
'Tis but to hasten Christ's return.
Rejoice, then, and be ne'er dismayed!
The earth and all on it was made
For us alone. Come greater need,
He'll give us more. What sin, then, greed?
So, Christmas shoppers, comfort ye
And go, consuming joyfully."

O Church, O wondering world, what shall we do
To tell the fallen angels from the true?

Monday, December 10, 2012

December 10

The malls are decked with plastic holly,
Poor Santa (somehow) still looks jolly,
And every year the season starts more early;
The stores are jammed -- the usual crowd,
The Christmas tunes are playing loud,
And every year the weather gets more squirrely.

The Christmas stuff's been on display
(It seems) forever and a day,
And maybe this would only be amusing --
The shoppers dashing store to store
To buy, frenetic, ever more --
If it weren't for the world that we're abusing.

Pollution, strip mines, old-growth trees
Cut down and sent to factories
(In China) where they make the crap we're buying;
Perhaps this seems a daunting task,
But -- Santa -- all I really ask
For Christmas, is an Earth that isn't frying.

There's plastic reindeer, plastic snow
And plastic icicles that glow
(To make the yard look Christmassy and nice);
While CO2 fills up the skies,
The worldwide temperatures all rise,
And soon the North Pole won't have any ice.

And real snow melts away in spring,
But yet another plastic thing
Takes hundreds of years longer (if at all);
Though we can change things -- if we hurry --
It needs to be a bigger worry
Than getting up the Christmas stuff in fall.

(Extrapolating these two trends
Right out to their eventual ends --
Assuming no world-saving new endeavor --
I forecast a dystopia
Like some inverted Narnia
Where it is always Christmas - winter, never.)

Sunday, December 9, 2012

December 9

~~~Part 2~~~

Prelude II

                 ...Open your eyes. Let the dream dissolve,
remember who and where you are, and when;
forgive this rather rude awakening
from childhood tales and timeworn images
of undetermined historicity
mixed with poetic whimsy and the dust
of an empire fifteen centuries dead;
and follow, if reluctantly, my voice

   Back to our own time, and another Advent
in this, the most portentous of all years:
The thirteen cycles winding slowly down,
and my own decade, too, set to expire
the same day; and though often not inclined
to wild belief or baseless superstition
I cannot help but feel some apprehension
at this unsettling confluence of endings.

   And signs more tangible: once more besieged
by heatwave and by storm the nations gather
to sink their hopes in well-rehearsed defeat
with grim paralysis the only victor.
   …But should we be surprised? For we as well
make vows in Advent's wake of warm goodwill
(derisive in their triviality,
and, mostly, for our single benefit) --

   Yet as the dark and numbing chill drags on
we find ourselves back in the old routine,
resentful in our disillusionment
at all the new year's broken promises;
in carefully devised amnesia
forgetting it was we ourselves who failed,
both traitor and betrayed -- (and, in strict truth,
our expectations having been no higher).

   And so, next year, we come once more around
the endless wheel of our own trodden footsteps
shamefaced with a self-deprecating smile
and wearied from our unredemptive wounds,
surprised, as ever, by the early darkness:
   To humbly beg for absolution, and
purification by the changeless pine,
the blood-red holly, and fresh-fallen snow.
   And for a week (or maybe two) pretend:
this time, yes, peace shall reign, and Christmas heal
all things; and smugly basking in the soft
reflected halo of the coloured lights
forget the archived wrongs and the detritus
that lie preserved within the layered drifts
to rot unmasked in spring's discovery:
such is our long-accepted ritual.

   …But now, in this most snowless of Decembers,
hypocrisy is futile; though our taste
for self-deception may be satisfied,
a overburdened earth is not amused
nor suffering appeased. Our half-voiced dreams
may be fulfilled; the urgent, vital task
set for us: truth. In mingled hope and fear
walk with me, then, through Advent now, and here.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

December 8

…And so at last diplomacy had failed.
The armies bristled, eager to collide;
A few collaborative traitors wailed
For peace, but mostly, others did not heed.
Peace, after all, was far less interesting;
"Besides," they said, "Our God is on our side --
We'll see Him come, the prophets guaranteed --
And all those new bombs need a good excuse for testing."

The heady first advance was soon repelled,
Vast colonies exchanged and planets riven;
Then came the day the mother ship was felled,
And city after city turned to pyre.
The pods filled with the lucky ones to fly,
The mines were set, the fateful order given;
Some poor obedient flunky pulled the wire
And swift galactic fire blossomed in the sky.

Across the barren dark sped one frail flitter.
"There is no God -- or else He does not hear."
The fuel ran short, the accusations bitter;
Hope faded, and the final few did blunder
Toward an unfamiliar planet far;
There, dying in the alien atmosphere,
Heard "Christ is born" -- the angel song like thunder
As Earthlings gazed in wonder at the bright new star.

~~~ End of Part 1. ~~~

Friday, December 7, 2012

December 7

Lully, lullay, thou little tiny Child,
Bye, bye, lully, lullay.

Herod, the king, in his raging,
Charged he hath this day
His men of might, in his own sight,
All young children to slay.


Lully, lullay, lullaby;
Helpless infant in the manger,
She who bore you sitting by
Watching, all alert, for danger --
In your sleeping, silence keeping,
Do you hear the mothers weeping
As their babes no longer cry?
Lully, lullay, lullaby.

Child who, in the void of black,
Flung the new stars you ignited
Out to leave Space in their track --
Why, too, leave Creation blighted?
Planets spinning, worlds beginning --
Could you not predict our sinning
Or prevent it? Did you try?
Lully, lullay, lullaby.

All the struggle, strife, competing
Plant and predator and prey --
Was it but the thoughtless, fleeting
Fancy of a child at play?
Eagles flying, seedlings vying --
What made you invent, then, dying?
Is your mercy all a lie?
Lully, lullay, lullaby.

When we left the verdant, vanished
Shelter of the ancient trees,
Did we choose (or were we banished?)
Violence over peaceful ease?
New lands filling, lifeblood spilling --
Are we driven, then, to killing
By some force we can't deny?
Lully, lullay, lullaby?

Marvel, scientists and sages!
Evolution's ancient curse
Echoed down through countless ages
Blood and brain both to coerce
Now is broken, by this token,
Word of Love into flesh spoken;
God with us to live, and die --
Lully, lullay, lullaby.

Gather round and see the Other
Come in answer to our need;
Stranger, alien, yet brother;
Free from hate, unmoved by greed;
Friend and rival for survival
Made as one by your arrival,
Hark! The age of peace draws nigh:
Lully, lullay, lullaby.

Starlight, guard this ancient child,
Snowflake gently round him falling;
Winter wind, your touch make mild,
Chickadee and owl calling.
In his dreaming, softly streaming,
Nighttime's green aurora gleaming
Fill the cold December sky;
Lully, lullay, lullaby.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

December 6

 For Hamza Ali Al-Khateeb,
And the children of Daraa, Syria

Varus, old boy, it's been a dreadful year,
A dreadful decade; three sons all turned traitor
(That bitch's kids and scheming Antipater)
Those Persian spies, sedition far and near,
And then this endless, torturous disease --
Seized on by those revolting Pharisees
Who dared to challenge me: King of the Jews!
(With pus and gout it's hard to still look regal.)
...They soon were caught, of course. How odd they'd choose
To perish over one more Roman Eagle.

And that insidious December plot
Hatched by the rebels down in Bethlehem.
Of course we made short work of most of them,
But captured the ringleader kids and brought
Them back; it wasn't hard to make them sing.
I knew it -- treason, and some upstart king
They'd schemed to crown! What, Varus, was my error?
I, I, their cherished monarch, who rebuilt
Their Temple; kept them safe from crime and terror!
(I hope, before they died, they felt some guilt.)

…They'll have their new king ere the year is out.
Worms gnaw my flesh, the bitter end now nears;
Fool Antipater in his dungeon cheers,
And in the streets deluded masses shout
For some long-promised Savior of their land --
(On them you'll have to use a heavy hand).
Now go: find those the people most esteem,
Bring them to Jericho; they'll share my doom,
And all shall see the tears for me that stream
In loud lament. And write upon my tomb,

Here lies King Herod, Great Basileus:
Famed, feared, much honored, and much loved by us.


Historical notes:

Varus: Publius Quinctilius Varus (46 BC to 9 AD), a Roman general under Emperor Augustus, was most famous for losing three Roman legions in the disasterous battle of the Teutoburg Forest. Before this unfortunate end to his career (and life), however, Varus served as governor of Syria during the last years of King Herod's reign, and was known for his harsh rule and heavy taxes. When messianic anti-Roman revolts erupted after King Herod's death in 4 BC, Varus did indeed "use a heavy hand", crucifying over 2000 Jews in retaliation. 

King Herod's sons: King Herod had at least nine sons, and five daughters, by eight different wives. His family, though large, was not a happy one: he executed his own wife Mariamne I in 29 BC, as well as her two sons in 7 BC and his first-born son Antipater in 4 BC (shortly before his death) on charges of attempting to murder him. By his death, the royal succession was in such a mess and Herod had changed his will so many times, that Caesar Augustus point-blank refused to confirm it, instead splitting up Herod's kingdom between three of his remaining sons.

King Herod's disease: Nobody is quite sure what King Herod died of, but the symptoms sound atrocious: worms, incontinence, gangrene, fever, itching and bad breath to boot. Some experts suspect kidney disease complicated by Fournier's gangrene.

The Pharisees and the Roman Eagle: In the last months of Herod's life, a group led by two prominent Pharisees -- named Judas and Mattbias -- took advantage of Herod's illness to pull down a Roman Eagle he had set up over the front door of the Temple in Jerusalem (contrary to Jewish religious law). They were caught, sentenced to death and burned alive.

King Herod's last wish: King Herod did indeed command, in his last days, that "all the most illustrious men of the whole Jewish nation" be brought to Jericho and imprisoned there, to be slain after his death so that there would be loud displays of weeping. Fortunately, the final part of this wish was not carried out and the men were instead freed.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

December 5

It started with the news that Caspar brought.
One moonless night a wondrous glimpse he caught;
And, showing us the bright unnamed star burning,
Insisted that the newborn King be sought.

A conference was called, the purpose stated;
For hours the assembled kings debated.
At last the expedition was confirmed!
We hastened to prepare, all hearts elated.

Young Melchior, his fervent eyes aflame,
Spoke ardently of his most zealous aim:
To seek the mystic favour of the Gods
(And for himself undying priestly fame).

While aged Caspar, gazing ever higher,
To tell the starry future did aspire;
He yearned to learn the two worlds' secret truths,
Drawn by all knowledge as a moth to fire.

But now -- you ask -- what vision did I hold?
One more pragmatic, yes, but also bold;
Two kings allied in triumph to restore
Great Cyrus' famed Empire of old.

Each noble had some different scheme to hide;
All were evasive, though of course none lied;
The caravan set out five hundred strong
By ritual flame and water purified.

Mel brought his sacred incense (the fanatic)
And Caspar, some strange southern aromatic;
I laughed at both of them, and filled my bags
With gold -- I've found its voice is quite emphatic.

So over deep ravine and mountain crest
We journeyed, eager, seldom taking rest
As slowly Persia's towers sank behind us,
And blazed our path into the Roman West.

Each, deeply in his own designs immersed,
Each night despised, and each delay we cursed;
All feigned to tolerate the others' presence --
In secret plotting how to get there first.

We reached the ancient city of the Jews,
Yet of a royal birth we heard no news;
And, seeking in the corridors of power,
Were sent off (with a most transparent ruse).

The search dragged on. For endless days it rained,
The nights grew cold and tempers overstrained;
And one by one discouraged lords crept home
Till, in our small band, only three remained.

And still the unforgiving trail we wended;
Our limbs grew weak, endurance nearly ended;
And, battered by despair and driving hail,
Into the final valley we descended.

The path grew faint -- then bit by bit skies cleared,
Clouds parted, and the star once more appeared!
It slowed its motion...wavered…then it stopped! --
As one last tiny farming town we neared.

Was this the goal of all our journeying?
This little hut -- here dwelt the promised King?
At Melchior's frown I couldn't but agree:
It wasn't, at first glance, too promising.

But Caspar was quite sure the place was right;
Dismounting, each one gripped his bundle tight.
We knocked…the door swung back…we stepped inside --
Our minds reeled, struck by more than mortal light.

Each saw, revealed within truth's blinding rays
The deeds and hidden motives of his days
There in the newborn infant's guileless eyes
Reflected back to his still-dazzled gaze;

And all that we had said, and been, and thought,
Our kingly power and the gifts we brought,
Seemed, like a candle flame before the sun,
To dwindle, in Love's radiance, to naught --

Our guile, ambition, secretive demands
All vain and empty as the desert sands;
And we, in shamed inadequacy, dropped
The worthless treasures from our trembling hands.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

December 4

...It was the usual tedious family gathering,
Descending on our house that census year.
My grandma cooked the roast that we all hate,
Aunt Deb made latkes; Saba called me dear
And pinched my cheeks; old Uncle'd put on weight,
His son-in-law had gotten even thinner.
   At last we all sat down, and then through dinner
Endured my second cousin's endless blathering
Of Caesar and the Senate, and my mother's
Incessant bustling.
                                      Beka and my brothers
Sat round the stove, entranced by Uncle's tales
Of heroes, mighty kings, angelic glories,
Bloodthirsty giants, prophet-eating whales;
(Sure, once I also loved to hear his stories --
But at a certain age you can't ignore
That all the heroes nowadays are gone;
And there's no talking donkeys in our stable.)
   But, finally sitting at the adult table,
I found it dull; and forcing back a yawn
Looked out the window just in time to spy a
Disruptive shepherd gang dash by our door
Hooting and hollering about some new Messiah.

   "We've found him!" came the shouts. "He's here, in town!"
Tobias sprang up quickly. "Let's go see!"
My father, the strict rabbi, gave a frown,
And Mother shook her head. "I just don't think
That heading out this late's a good idea."
While, "Never trust a shepherd," sniffed Aunt Leah;
"They're thieves, and they're unclean -- besides, they stink!"
Then, cynical as always, my dear cousin
Remarked that talk came cheap; and these pretend
Messiahs a denarius a dozen.
…But even Father's said the world might end
Quite soon; if so, I had to watch at least.
It was, at any rate, good for a lark;
   So, as my mother cleared away the feast,
Deb made tea and the men went off to drink,
I nodded quickly to the other three;
Old storytelling Uncle gave a wink
And we slipped out into the early dark.

   The air was crisp, the moonless sky was black --
No shepherds, or Messiah, were in sight.
Tobias strode ahead; I waved him back
Just as the whole disreputable band
Came tearing round a corner from the right;
They stopped dead in their tracks, as did Tobias.
I felt Rebekah tightly squeeze my hand,
And Dan pulled close to me at their approach.
I was the first one, awkwardly, to broach
The point. "You saw -- the chosen one of God?"
   There were some mutterings, and a hostile stare.
One ragtag shepherd boy began to nod;
Then, as he met an older one's swift glare,
"The angel said -- tell everyone you meet."
   At last the leader shrugged. "Just down the street.
We're heading there -- you might as well come follow."
I saw Rebekah give a nervous swallow,
And Tob glanced down in search of ammunition,
As one by one the scruffy youths pushed by us;
And we walked on in mutual suspicion.

"In here." The leader nudged me, quickly pointing;
The others trailed behind in single file.
The air was chill, the stable walls were thin.
A woman glanced up with a weary smile
And led us to an infant lying in...
A trough. (I had expected some grand throne.)
   Our nation's savior -- this small babe, asleep?
My cousin had been right; how disappointing.
I sighed and, shrugging, motioned to the others.
"That's it, then -- guess we'll head on back to Mother's."
And saw their eyes grow wide; turned round to find
The child awake -- and as I met his gaze,
Time slowed…then stopped.
                                                      ...Like one who has been blind
First staring in the starry heavens deep
I felt the little world that I had known
Fall shattered, burst asunder by sheer awe --
And for an age I stood, my mind ablaze,
Stunned by the timeless wonder that I saw.

   And knew…but how to put it into words?
Just this: the ancient times had never ceased;
And here, yes, here amid the bleating herds,
The low thatched huts and rising curls of smoke,
The tales began anew, and God still spoke:
To us. -- No, not through warrior king or priest,
In blood or battle, trumpet blast or flame --
But in a newborn infant's gentle face.
   The world was ending? Just its childhood years
Of strife and turmoil, as a new time came:
Our age, and we its heroes, called to fight
The clinging webs of ancient feuds and fears
Dividing us: by birth and blood and race,
Poor, wealthy, farmer, shepherd, old or young.
   And countless tribes in distant unknown lands
Would tell in awe and wonder of this night,
In tongues not born and songs still to be sung:
Songs of a child, and shepherds -- and of me.
   In awe, then, mingled with humility,
We went forth from the stable, clasping hands
Who had arrived distrustful, now as one:
And there was something new beneath the sun.

Monday, December 3, 2012

December 3

It started in November
(As well I would remember)
This aggravation of a forced assignment;
My friends thought I'd just made it --
I'd hoped I could evade it --
I guess the stars were just not in alignment.

My name came up -- "What luck!"
And with that, I was stuck,
To go in spite of all my frantic pleas;
I'd never helped a birth
And didn't much like Earth
(Hate and corruption always make me sneeze.)

At least I'd look my best.
I packed my glittering vest
Until I found out...well, you get the gist.
I don't like mid-air dance
And by some strange mischance
My name had been left off the choir list.

"I hadn't made the cut,"
They said. I gave up -- but
I simply wasn't going as a sheep.
I chose a tabby cat,
Well-fed, content and fat
(I figured I could catch up on my sleep.)

The details all arranged,
Into our wings we changed
And flew to Earth as fast as we were able;
Snuck in, now well disguised,
Found (as we'd been advised)
The poor girl giving birth inside the stable.

The donkeys hee-ed and hawed,
Geese honked, the young lambs baa-ed,
And in the eaves the doves would not stop cooing;
My brother, now cow-faced,
Chomped on his cud and paced
(I hissed at him to quit the nervous mooing.)

We watched, the hours crept,
Of course nobody slept,
And even I'll admit I had the jitters.
He slipped out -- quite unsightly;
His mother held him tightly.
(It's odd that humans don't have bigger litters.)

I would have loved to bask;
But, well, I knew my task.
I crouched alert to watch for any danger.
Then, through the noise and bustling,
I heard the faintest rustling:
A hungry rat had crept inside the manger!

I sprang, my claws extending;
Leapt at the rodent, sending
It fleeing in a ball of frantic fur;
As Mary stopped her screaming
The boy cooed at me, beaming --
Well, after that how could I help but purr?

So now two months have passed;
The baby's growing fast.
Last evening, though, there was an urgent warning:
King Herod...well, he's got
A rather nasty plot.
They're heading off to Egypt in the morning.

It's tricky to decide --
Should I come for the ride?
It could be fun, as long as there are mice there;
He's such a gentle lad;
The trip won't be half bad.
(...Besides, I've heard they treat cats rather nice there.)

Sunday, December 2, 2012

December 2

O in the fields the blossoms blow,
Apple, myrtle, rose and rue:
Yet is my flower weal or woe?
Is my love false or is she true?

O, I remember in the spring
With flowers blooming o'er the land
As all the birds began to sing
I took my Mary by the hand.

One summer morn I walked along
Through apple, myrtle, rose and rue
And as I went I sang this song:
My lovely Mary's ever true.

But O the dreadful news I heard!
The tongues around wagged up and down
And all the talk was of one word:
Sweet Mary's letting out her gown.

Then came my mother in and said,
"My son, my son, you've been beguiled,
The pretty maiden you would wed --
This very day she goes with child."

O Mary, Mary, why this shame?
Apple, myrtle, rose and rue
Where is the man and what his name?
Is my love false or is she true?

"O Joseph, Joseph, hear my plea:
He was an angel bright and fair
Who flew on heav'nly light to me
And said the Lord Most High I'd bear."

Then spoke her mother listening near,
Her smile was sad, her look was kind:
"My boy, my boy, I greatly fear
My poor girl Mary's lost her mind."

Yet as I slept that very night
I saw a wonder in my dreams:
A wingèd angel came in flight
Wrapped all around in golden beams.

"O Joseph, Joseph, now be glad:
Apple, myrtle, rose and rue
Your young bride Mary's never mad
And all she's told to you is true.

For Mary's shame and Mary's boy
Of whom the ancient sages spoke
Shall be the whole world's peace and joy."
And all at once I trembling woke.

But dreams do lie and dreams deceive
Apple, myrtle, rose and rue
And men in dreams fair fancies weave
Is Mary false or is she true?

And so I still go wondering:
Is my love false, or is she true?
And all day long my song I sing
Of apple, myrtle, rose and rue.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

December 1

He came without clamor,
He came without cash;
He came without glamour
Or making a splash;
He came without earnings,
He came without pensions,
He came without stern
Academic pretensions.

No certifications
Or any CV,
And no publications
(Heck, no Ph. D!),
He'd no elite schooling
Nor status to keep,
His only skills drooling
And nursing and sleep.

No private jetliner
(Or even a car!),
No graphics designer,
No team for P.R.,
No media releases
Or bio or pics --
Just one more kid Jesus
Born out in the sticks.

No gear for protection,
No bodyguard crew,
Not one health inspection
Or shot against flu;
No crowds to receive him,
No national fame,
And he didn't even
Have any last name.

Small in the storm's raging
And naked in chill,
An unseen war waging,
A quest to fulfill;
We looked for him flinging
His bolts from above --
He came, simply bringing
His gift to us: