Advent Riffs: First Sunday

The Epistle reading today, from Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, includes this prayer:  

“May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all …” 

Let your love increase and abound. Love one another. More than loving one another in the group of Christians in Thessalonia, love all—love those inside the group, those outside, all people.  

Paul’s admonition brings me back to a poem that came to me through a friend and has stayed with me over the past few months. “A Great Need” was written by the Persian poet Hafez, who lived in the 14th century. 

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Captured, But Not Prey
Amazed at morning bird songs, 
numerous, varied, and incessant,
I looked up, even knowing most birds perch
out of sight, hidden in a leafy canopy.

One tall bird, large claws curled around the power line,
hooked beak, white chest softly spotted, 
full-grown and fearless,
stared back at me. 

Captured, though not prey,
I stood and snapped photos of the falcon,  
watching until he flew away.

Ever since that morning,
I look up at the power lines above the golf course fence.
Though I have not seen another falcon,
mourning doves delight me daily. 

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Fire Season I

Early summer mornings, 
the sun rises copper penny bright 
shining in a gray sky
casting no shadows
yellow and fuzzy, blurred 
in a hazy white sky
showing soft shadows, 
their edges indistinct.  

I remember piercing blue July skies.
I see pale blue and white and gray. 

and now this new season
I never wanted to see. 

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Road Construction Subversion

Road construction sign
An orange and white sawhorse blocks
my sidewalk. Annoying enough, but now
it gives orders, too.

"Cretin Avenue ped detour turn right." 

I watch 
sidewalks torn up, carted away,
dirt topped with gravel, smoothed, 
covered in concrete again. 

"Cretin Avenue ped detour turn left." 

I ignore orders, walk 
around barricades.

One morning, the mechanical voice changes, 
speaks with a Boston accent:
"It’s a pedestrian detour, Georgie.
Everybody turn right heah!"

I stop, wave at it, 
listen as it repeats, 
go on with a smile. 

Soon sidewalk subversion claims another corner. 
A woman's voice proclaims
"Peace on earth! Turn right!"
And then another:
"Burning bright day! Turn left!" 
In a few days, Boston changes his message:
"It's a pedestrian detour.
all hard working American taxpayers turn right!" 

The streets belong to the people.
Sidewalks, too. 

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A Promised Land: Book Review

“The power to inspire is rare,” Ted Kennedy advised Barack Obama as he sought advice about running for president (69). Obama seized that power, inspiring legions of young (and not so young) supporters to carry him into the White House. That inspiration surfaces in many parts of this first volume of his presidential memoirs, as Obama holds fast to a belief in American ideals, despite a clear-eyed understanding of just how far American reality is from those ideals. 

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Garden Time

Digging out stubborn chives, 

moving cement blocks to make walls,  

piling in dirt for a tomato bed.

Stretching chicken wire around short posts,

fencing rabbits out of my soon-to-be lettuce patch.

Planting nasturtium seeds in plastic strawberry boxes,

watering lilies that came up and lettuce that didn’t

(not yet, maybe tomorrow).

Unwrapping winter fences around 

lilac, bridal wreath, mock orange, 

nine bark shrub, hydrangea.

Clearing last year’s leaves and litter,

revealing bloodroot, wild ginger, sedum,


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Calling the Police on the Police

In an emergency, dial 911.
Call the police to report a crime.

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Spring, Elusive and Inevitable

"They tried to bury us. They didn't know we were seeds."

Spring sunshine, warmer days, first flowers tempt me 

to believe
that winter is over, 
that garden-time has arrived

to hope
that we have turned a corner
that milder days are coming

to believe 
that vaccines will conquer COVID
that the economy will recover

to hope
that sanity and science will prevail
that reason will win over racism.

Inevitably, frost returns and Republicans, too,
crying crisis, 
surge, caravan, onslaught, 
tidal wave, flood, inundation, 
march, invasion, army,
danger, danger, danger as

parents seeking safety send
six-year-olds, sixteen-year-olds
into the river, 
a Sophie’s choice claiming hope. 

In Washington, cherry blossom spring blooms like 
a female black Asian American daughter of immigrants 
vice president standing alongside 
an old white male president 
and the pastor of Dr. King’s church, now Senator from Georgia 
and a descendant of Jewish refugees, now Senator from Georgia.

Inevitably, Republicans vow that will never happen again, changing
Georgia voting laws because
the only way to win is to keep people from voting and
by God, we will do that. 

Intersectionality looks like an AR-15 dealing death 
to Asian women at the intersection of race and gender in Atlanta. 

Across the country, 10 more random dead in Boulder join 
the annual parade of homicide and suicide that stretches 
forty thousand long

(how many blocks is that? how many marching bands? 
how many mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers? 
how many tears?)

while a Senator who lives at the intersection of arrogance and ignorance
rants that every time this happens, you people
you people talk about gun control again.

Just like every other time, he and his kind make sure
that talk remains only talk
that there will be a next time 
and a time after that. 

Despite spring storms, tornadoes,
floods and filibusters,
sun returns, green grows,
hope endures and so do we. 

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The Physics of Spring

I’d like to know the why of spring:
why some puddles freeze on sidewalks overnight
even though the temperature never falls below freezing,
why snow here melts gurgles down gutters and
there gathers over grass in piles of ice.

I’d like to know when frost rises and 
how deep it goes and 
whether it comes out with a rush or 
slowly, inch by inch.

I prefer to ponder spring and to ignore
the why of my aging bones
or worse: the why of us, the corporate us,
retaliating bomb for bomb lobbed at our soldiers, but
daring only diplomatic displeasure at
the dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi. 

On this sun-warmed day,
I watch for cautious green arrows 
sent by flowers into another 
uncertain March, and try to believe 
in the ultimate efficacy of effort 
against the bitter winter of our failures. 

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In Memoriam and in Thanks: Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Lawrence Ferlinghetti, 1919-1921 (Photo by Elsa Dorfman, 1965,  licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 )

Another light went out today
howl for his passing and our loss
let not the dying of this light
kill light or grace or passion
carry on
poetry as politics 
insurgency as art

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