We leave the house, meet up with friends,
head through snowy streets
to the stone church across town.
Eyes dancing, Skip takes his chance,
shoulders my baby sister into a snowdrift.
He hauls her out, hero of the moment,
bestows her first kiss.
Eyes dazed, she’s worthless
for the rest of the night.
We cluster with other kids
and grownups, take our song sheets,
trail giggling as we set off
on our trek. We stop at houses
with welcoming looks and sing
our little hearts out, warbling carols
into the cold dark spotted with snowflakes.
Eyes smiling, sometimes wincing,
householders pass out cookies.
We make our circuit till legs turn blue
and the venture stops being fun.
Our pals pass on the service
inside the stone church, trudge back
across town to our house where Mother,
eyes checking us out, is deep
in her own Christmas party.
Dropping everything, she settles us all
in the kitchen with cocoa and cake.
On this night frost shivers beneath the stars,
the planet tilts a small breath closer to warmth.
The seam between worlds eases apart for a few hours
and souls from other places, other times, slip through.
People spanning the ages gather at their sacred sites.
Magic rides the heavens on such a night.
(first pub. in East Valley Times and Re-Verse, 2012)
ON THE EVE
—Taylor Graham, Placerville
Tonight he sits in the dark of the year
remembering things past—on a green hill
statue of an angel holding a sphere
blue-moonlit—presence almost living still,
someone he loved, now gone. A starry chill
of former pleasures—all those shooting lights
of hope, and faithfulness—the memories spill
like Christmas cups; unopened, wrapped delights.
And all those stars like angels falling from the heights.
We had a date with Christmas
on the far side of a mountain.
VW van full of gifts
and cheer—one pump-organ
humming to itself old grandmother hymns,
two marble-top tables bearing imprint
of childish verse; three German Shepherds;
just-in-case camping gear.
Almost to the summit
the engine simply quit
without a tow-truck near. So we camped
on the sand for Christmas Eve;
picked up sticks of desert scrub; incense
of sage rising from our little fire.
High-desert nights are cold
as onyx, higher; dizzy with stars; wind-
harps and dancing angel-scarves
in every color of the Northern Lights.
Our dogs kept us warm
as shepherds’ sheep, as we crossed
the invisible line to Christmas:
bells not meant to be
heard out loud;
and all those stars.
never point to themselves
they just let their grace
stamina become wider
kindly and wholly—
motives do not shift
the abacus either left up
or down right
it just goes naturally
to where it will.