Friday, December 20, 2013

Holiday Music

How can we sing the songs of the Lord
    while in a foreign land?

Psalm 137

Eventually, they learned to sing 
the old songs, but updated the tunes. 
The old melodies felt foreign. Even then 
the songs were nostalgic. A warm flutter 
in between the kidneys and liver for a place 
no one except the elderly had seen. Families 
wore far-away faces with glazed over eyes. 

Home was a memory 
living in holiday songs. 

Some went back, discontent.Frustrated 
in exile, longing for a home they never had. 
But those who stayed paid it no mind. 
Content to hum to themselves 
the old songs in midst of the mundane: 
washing soiled clothes, tilling tired gardens,
or taking their rest by the river. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Steady Work

The dollar store is selling your grandmother's wedding ring
and your neighbor with the dog and drinking problem
has been haggling. I waited to tell you. When he got the owner
down to 75 cents, I became worried. It's a nice ring. 

Sometimes, depending on the light, I see your uncle
in the rusted out hood of the Chevy Blazer parked out front--
I think it's fitting. There's a accidental aesthetic to it,
like the algae slurry on the lake where he lived. It's comforting.

My coffee is getting cold. Your roommate was nice
enough to make me a cup when I came over. Sucks
he's leaving soon. But I hear good things about North Carolina.
I hope you don't mind me writing this on your post-it notes. 

You need more milk. Also, I had the last of your frosted flakes.
Do you remember when your Dad would take us to the diner
after snowboarding? Breakfast all day is a beautiful thing.
My condolences by the way. Oh and congratulations 

steady work is hard to find these days. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A Vancouver Christmas Story

I smelt a Christmas party
half-a-block away--mouthwash
carried on a shivering breeze.

Security guards looked uneasy
beside the doors of a mall
in the midst of a late close.

Displays dimmed in quick secession,
mannequins in formal wear were left
standing in the dark.

On the corner the party raged.
Two silhouettes sat still
backs against the light,

black lumps traced 
by white fluorescence,
with an orange highlight.

One liter of Listerine
Original--26 percent 
alcohol. Half-finished.

The light tinted in mouthwash:
a stained glass portrait,
like a scene from my bible:

a slurred nativity. I walked 
slower past the revelers.
ears perked to listen to

an unintelligible conversation
in angry tones. The two shared
gulps of the season's cocktail.

Remnants of the old neighborhood
creep out into the bright part of Vancouver
at awkward times--cold snaps

near Christmas, when people are
supposed to care about the poor,
remember the old story

of a couple pushed out,
who found no where to sleep.
And the uncouth foul-mouthed

Shepherds watching their flocks
half-drunk and stinking, abandoning
their posts and hastening to the city.

The last shoppers wandered by
under high-rises of million dollar condos
hemming in the old neighborhood

of a city trying everything
to hide an embarrassment,
or push it back to the periphery. 

The Christmas party did not have long,
security spotted the couple and 
hastened from their post to end it.

I watched a moment, then left
with a Christmas song
humming in my head. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Name Changes

And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.
Matthew 16:18

Simon was to be a rock
thrown through a window
of an old miser, distrusted
by young girls of the col de sac.

A rock that gathered no moss.
Counter-example for the terse
stoic sensei’s proverbial lesson.
Simon was not to be an illustration.

A rock that finally cried out
to break the awkward lull
with non sequitur anecdotes
about World War 2,

caught up between toes,
disturbing the comfortable
feet in their Birkenstocks.
Simon wore socks with sandals.

Merry Christmas Vancouver!

Today warmed up
just enough to greet
rain: freezing drizzle,
the forecast realized.

A week of cold:
winds and sun,
frozen over ponds.
Concrete lawns

thawed back to damp.
Wet climbed-up wool
socks from the toes
strangled cold feet.

The anticipation of snow
slunk into puddles
that soaked through shoes:
Merry Christmas!