Christmas Eve 1999
Silent hallways, hushed with sorrow,
Broken with a solitary whimper or pleading cry.
White nurses live their own lives
Dabbed with the innovative colors
Of sweaters and pins,
Coming to work with holiday plans
And family concerns, looking at the clock.
But in holy corridors and sanctuary rooms,
The patient people and children and babies that
Sit or lie or slouch or twist
In tangled shrouds or swaddling cloths,
Have, with reluctant courage claimed this ground.
For this time and by their suffering presence, they
Sanctify the sanitary smells that barely
Conceal the ignominity of human life.
Patient families read old magazines and
Eat tasteless vended snacks, stranded
In the station, saying good-bye and hello
Forever, looking at their watches,
To know when to pay the rent, check
On the dog, to carry on
The half-life outside these neutral walls.
And you, the patient father, husband,
Grandfather, lie in your Christmas crib.
For on this night, this is your home.
The journey that you have made to this place
Began ages ago, gathering up
All the richness of a wise man
To spread out now in this stable
Room–shadows, confused memories, flickering smiles,
But real gifts, from a world we cannot see.
Kingdom borders are blurred
And we all stand on your ground,
Where the stale air is touched with honeysuckle breath,
And tubes turn to strands of pearls and medicines to liquid diamonds
That glow inside of you, as hope
Shines through the window from a star.
When You Come Home 2005
We’ll see you in the distance,
the shape of you
still caught in waves
of memory and hope
rising from the road.
Will you be wounded while
still the battle’s on?
Coming to rest and heal
until your new assignment arrives
by word of a stranger at the gate?
Time, our overseer,
will preside at our luncheons
and our games,
trying to be discreet
so that for some period
we may not notice him.
But if we are at home in our hearts
each minute, each hour,
each day is a marvelous lens
gathering the dust of galaxies
so our tired eyes may see
our true home
where the infinite rooms
have names and stairways.
Then one day when the War is over
from rockers on our infinite porch called Mercy
we’ll watch for new arrivals.
For now, Jack will bark,
and at the crunch of gravel
our heads will turn
and we will run to meet you.
The Randomness of God 1990
Is there a perfect randomness?
Is the rock exactly right as it sits in the sea,
Here and not there?
And the tumbleweed blows
This way and not that.
Is the direction a statement,
The interval a lasting theme?
The bird that flew across my view,
Not a wild bird, but a homely one as it lighted
On that gently tended tree
Was given to me, it seemed, for that one moment.
In a flash, that bird was mine, the tree was mine,
The street was mine.
And a voice said, “Walk here and not there.”
Had the creation groaned and shifted
Under the weight of all the years
It had waited for me to walk down that street
On that day in May?
And it was gone from my memory…until today
When the holy air spoke again as a shining friend.
It was more than a promise
It was more than a hope
It was a gateway.
The rush of wind blew around where I stood,
The breath of mystics and martyrs,
The gate’s own breath and blood.
If this way should grow over with vines
And be hidden again from my heart,
May this page be a map through
The randomness of God.