PUEBLO CHRISTMAS

The night is that bitter cold
that slices easily through
nylon and Polartec, makes
child’s play of fleece and denim.
The small rooms glow
in the dim radiance of propane lights
and heaters as the silver
is carefully packed away
in plastic tool boxes.
The pinyon wood is neatly stacked
in forty pyres, some little taller
than the white children
clinging to their parents’ legs,
some reaching twenty-five feet,
frozen sentinels against
the star gorged sky.
The fires are slowly lighted
from the top, the green wood
slowly creeps to flame
as its sap drips fire
until the pile is consumed.
Half frozen we step away
from the sudden oven heat.
The smoke climbs
obliterating the stars
as the procession snakes
from the small, adobe church,
the men at its head firing rifles
into the scowling smoke cloud.
A sheet is draped over the four poles
a chupah over the statue of the Virgin Mother
remarried to her people.
She weaves through the crowd,
gringos, Indians, looking
always upward, beyond the smoke
the clouds against which it nestles,
beyond all, for another
faint glimpse of her Son.

VESPERS

The sun slowly starts
it’s daily retreat, setting
the thinning clouds ablaze.

The birds return, ibis,
egrets, anhinga and kite
and even the limpkin
march slowly across
the lawn to the preserve
that abuts our yard.

They take up their perches
on the trees and bushes
and on the limpkin’s call
begin quietly to recite
their evening prayers
as we bow our heads
in reverence to their faith
that the new morning
will soon dawn for us all.

FLAME

He watched as the flame
licked at the lip
of the candle, the wax
slowly conceding and falling
in, forming the cradle
on which the flame danced.
He wondered how something
as simple as a wax cylinder
could have an inherent knowledge
of beauty and simplicity
and yet he stared at it
certain the knowledge was there.
He dared not put out the flame
for he could not deprive
the night of this momentary beauty
when it’s love, the moon
had chosen to retreat leaving the stars
to mock their small, immature brother.

BLESSING

There is a blessing in silence
that we so often deny ourselves,
unaware that it lies just beyond
the noise of our minds and lives.
We crave it, beg for it, and
hearing the beggar, shun him
for the noise he carries
like the skin he cannot molt.
Beethoven understood silence
in his later years and
filled with a music
none of us will pause to hear.

PIERCING

It is a simple two pronged pin,
steel, a circle around the letter U.S.
It has sat in my jewelry box since the day
I clutched the DD-214, hung up
the two or three uniform items
I didn’t turn over to Goodwill,
and filed the paperwork with the VA.
Every month, when the VA Disability
check came in, I’d glance at the pin
and remember the heat of Lackland,
the sound of the planes when I
was out on the line delivering
a manifest to the pilots, Ray-Ban
aviator glasses, dirt cheap at the BX.
I never agreed with the war, had
no idea why we were in the paddies,
but the U.S. was us and I owed
a duty to us and served.
I don’t know quite when it happened,
but I look at the pin now,
and wonder to whom I
could send it for it now has
no meaning, and if possible
I’d really like those two years back,
for I no longer feel a part of US.

ADIEU, SOL

The sun is preparing
still another departure.
He moves with a ponderousness
that you wouldn’t expect of him,
he who should be all passion
consuming the sky, painting clouds.
We expect his return by morning,
he has never yet disappointed
but Luna, lingering at the horizon,
a diva making her slow entry,
shines fully as if saying
tonight you won’t miss him —
the day may be short, but I
will make the long night bright
and mine is one you need
not look away from.