I have nothing to give you, nothing to carry,
some words to make me less afraid, to say
you gave me this.
Memory insists with its sea voice,
muttering from its bone cave.
Memory wraps us
like the shell wraps the sea.
Nothing to carry,
some stones to fill our pockets,
to give weight to what we have.
~ Anne Michaels, from “Memoriam,” in The Weight of Oranges/ Miner’s Pond
For nothing is fixed, forever and forever and forever, it is not fixed; the earth is always shifting, the light is always changing, the sea does not cease to grind down rock. Generations do not cease to be born, and we are responsible to them because we are the only witnesses they have. The sea rises, the light fails, lovers cling to each other, and children cling to us. The moment we cease to hold each other, the sea engulfs us and the light goes out.
~ James Baldwin
Mid-July, and the beets are ready
Their green tops waving to us
From the garden,
Calling us to sink our fingers
into the warm earth,
grasp the dark red globes,
Shake the sandy loam free,
revealing coarse jewels,
their true beauty known only
to those who know.
In the kitchen, a knife awaits,
Pot of boiling water
A blue bowl.
Crusty, lined skin slides off
Under our fingertips
As we rinse and rub,
Rough turning to smooth
Almost too beautiful
Stay, I said to the cut flowers.
They bowed their heads lower.
Stay, I said to the spider,
It reddened, embarrassed for me and itself.
Stay, I said to my body.
It sat as a dog does, obedient for a moment, soon starting to tremble.
Stay, to the earth, of riverine valley meadows, of fossiled escarpments, of limestone and sandstone.
It looked back with a changing expression, in silence.
Stay, I said to my loves.
Each answered, Always.
In our joy, we think we hear a whisper.
At first it is too soft. Then only half heard.
We listen carefully as it gathers strength.
We hear a sweetness.
The word is Peace.
It is loud now.
Louder than the explosion of bombs.
We tremble at the sound.
We are thrilled by its presence.
It is what we have hungered for.
Not just the absence of war. But true Peace.
A harmony of spirit, and comfort of courtesies.
Security for our beloveds and their beloveds.
We, Angels and Mortals, Believers and Nonbelievers,
Look heavenward and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at each other, then into ourselves,
And we say without shyness or apology or hesitation:
Peace, My Brother.
Peace, My Sister.
Peace, My Soul.
little silent Christmas tree
you are so little
you are more like a flower
who found you in the green forest
and were you very sorry to come away?
see i will comfort you
because you smell so sweetly
i will kiss your cool bark
and hug you safe and tight
just as your mother would,
only don’t be afraid
look the spangles
that sleep all the year in a dark box
dreaming of being taken out and allowed to shine,
the balls the chains red and gold the fluffy threads,
put up your little arms
and i’ll give them all to you to hold
every finger shall have its ring
and there won’t be a single place dark or unhappy
then when you’re quite dressed
you’ll stand in the window for everyone to see
and how they’ll stare!
oh but you’ll be very proud
and my little sister and i will take hands
and looking up at our beautiful tree
we’ll dance and sing