For 18 Years Now (a poem for Jeffrey’s birthday)

In the young light
this morning, when
I stepped out on the porch
with Bon, a perfect half-
moon shimmered its
luster over the edge
of day

And I thought of
how we’ve had your
luminous heart for
eighteen years
now

how you
shine light into the
moments; how you shimmer—
give to us a piece of
the sky, burning our
half-moon days into
full, silvery bloom

Birthday Forecast: Snow (a poem for Teddy as he turns 19)

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for your birthday we
went for a walk in the snow
under a white sky
shedding bits of Jonas
an inch every hour;

we went to see the
creek, beneath the ice,
and I slid down the embankment,
crouched under the bridge to
film the snowfall and sing
you a birthday message

the song was small and
filled with the sadness of
missing your face for the
first time in nineteen years—
the first time without you on
this anniversary of my becoming
a mother

your dad stood above on
the street in his fluorescent
orange tuque; he said I sounded
like Marilyn singing to
JFK, and isn’t that a little
creepy? to send to our son?

so instead of sending you
a song, I closed out the video,
let melting snowflakes pool
in droplets on my camera like
prayer beads made of light;

every word spoken began as a
picture; each click of the
shutter sighs,
I love you; I miss you;
I’m so glad you were born

Black Crow (For Jeffrey on His Seventeenth Birthday)

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“You’ll never be sixteen
again,” I said, words misting
like white doves in the air.

I don’t remember
what the weather was like
on the day you were born.
this morning, it snows—
tiny, frail flakes, drifting

I drive away, you still
sleeping

it’s hard to know when
a boy becomes a man,
switching out smooth stones
in his pocket for car keys.
you used to leave the kitchen
table smelling of syrup and
milk; now you enter the day
clean-shaven, all soap
and mint

what do you remember
of the days gone? Do you
recall when a maple seed
held all the world in its
wingspan? when a pine
cone was the grandest prize?
a flat of frozen creek, hoisted
your victory dance? the
trophies you seek now
I can’t hold in my hand.

one black crow in the parking
lot when I arrive. he pushes down
on the air with wings longer
than his body, languid in his
escape.

“where will you go?”
I ask with my white-bird
words.

Image by Dennis. Sourced via Flickr.

Palm Sunday: Washed

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On my birthday I wash the feet of some of my dearest friends. It’s Palm Sunday, and we have small group, and my husband is worried it won’t be special enough—that my day will pass by unnoticed.
But I know.
“Tell me why we have to wash their feet again?” He wants to know.
And I want to tell him about the time we washed the feet of the children during Wednesday church. How it stilled even the most restless, how it felt to rub those grimy toes. He’s worried it will make them uncomfortable—he tells me he’s uncomfortable. And why—on my birthday—do I have to wash the feet of others? And I love him for asking, for always thinking of me.
But I know he doesn’t understand. Because the washing is the easy part.
                                                                                         
“Because we’re the leaders,” I say, and I leave it there—praying.
In church that morning, we waved our palms and the pastor spoke about the crowd that was there—the people who witnessed the crucifixion.
“Mary was there. And John,” she said. “And don’t you know that Martha and Lazarus and their Mary were there too? Could they stay away? Just imagine,” she said. “The faces of those who loved him.”
She wondered aloud about the people he had healed. Was blind Bartimaeus there?  The lepers? I wondered too. I wondered about their discomfort—their pain.
“And soon,” she said. “Soon the threatening voices would drown out the voices of love.”
During prayer time the congregation had sung Happy Birthday to me—to me. And I sit in the pew and wonder how voices so full of love could turn so quickly. I wave my palm and think how this happens to all of us—the threatening voices drown out the voices of love.
At some point, at some place in life we will all feel the discomfort. Accusations, disagreement, anger.
Can I reach through discomfort and serve in love? Will I?
At small group they bring me a cake, and flowers, and Jennifer gives me a beautiful card she made because of something I said in Sunday school. And I bend and pour water over their feet and he dries them with a towel. Luke is crying because he’s hungry and the rest of the kids are having an Easter egg hunt upstairs.
It’s a logistical nightmare—this washing of feet—with babies and dogs and furniture crowding us. But these voices of love have braved the discomfort. As I dip my hands in warm water, rub them over chapped heels and toes…I know these feet will stand firm through any pain for me.
And it’s the best birthday gift. Washed in the water. Clean.

I’m pleased to share a Lenten devotional over at The High Calling today. Will you join me there?

With Michelle today:

 

A Poem for Jeffrey on the Eve of His Thirteenth Birthday

the last day of twelve
was nothing special,
you said.
you didn’t dress for gym,
didn’t play four-square with
the others. only walked,
you said.
in English, you wrote
a myth…about Gusano—
it means “worm” in Spanish
you said.
this Graco-Spanish
worm-god found freedom,
you said.
but he led his people
back into the
earth to rule the Underworld
and that’s why he will
be responsible for
the zombie apocalypse.
you said.
and math was about
interest, like money and
banks, you know?
you said.
and you have homework
so you came home in
a bad mood and didn’t
want to talk about  twelve
you said.
so i hushed and got out
the eggs, cracked them one-by-
one in the bowl and mixed until
those yellow eyes are gone; i
rubbed grease on the pan that is
swathed in black enamel
from years of cradling sweet
batter…and i poured more
in. you at the table building
up interest when the room
starts to smell like a birthday.
and suddenly, you are there,
beside to lick the batter from
the bowl. what time was I
born?
you said.

Listen to it!



shared with nancy and the gang.