“and after shadow and darkness,
the eyes of the blind will see”
(Isaiah 29: 18)
“The people that walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those who dwell in the land
of the shadow of death, a light has shown”
(Isaiah 9: 2)
to wait for us it may be
where we least expect it”
(W. S. Merwin, “From Our Shadows,”
Garden Time, Copper Canyon Press, 2016)
January 7, 2021. Today is the day after. The day after the darkest day I have experienced in four years of dark days. Thank God joy waited in that darkness. Thank God the United States of America still stands against domestic terrorists, trumpeting voices fomenting rage and fear: “Mere anarchy . . . loosed upon the world” (William Butler Yeats, “The Second Coming”). Thank God for the joyful courage of a people voting Yes for a republic of, by, and for the people. All people. Yes for Truth.
January 6, 2021, was also a day of Light against the Darkness. I need that Light. Like Robert Frost,
“I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain–and back in rain.
I have out walked the furthest city light”
(“Acquainted With The Night,” lines 1-3).
With Frost, I have been directed down a “ladder road” to a brook, its cold waters, a “broken drinking goblet,” an offering: “Here are your waters and your watering place. / Drink and be whole again beyond confusion” (“Directive”).
“Lord I believe;
help thou mine unbelief”
(Mark 9: 24, KJV)
He wants to believe. This poet
race-walking four miles on the street,
breathing through his nose, exhaling
with a burst through his mouth.
This poet who cannot dispel the Darkness,
his, and that of his unlikely friends:
The man tucked knees to chest,
face down between the narrow space
between his knees, his only view,
if he opens his eyes, the sidewalk
pavement, the Duck Tape binding
the toes of shoes two sizes large,
walking from handed-out meal
to meal to brick wall he leans against,
squat against all seasons, the north wind,
sudden downpours, desert-climate
sun blistering his face like that
of the drug addict picking skin to blood.
The Darkness the poet would lift from
the young woman, still pretty on the streets,
laughing how her only desire must be
to stay stoned, weighing down the Darkness.
Would, if he could, steady the tick, tick
quick-time seizings of another street friend’s
face, hands a flurry about his head.
Would light the Darkness settled on
the friend who does not speak,
a grin seeping out the corners of his mouth.
And how can a poet save the toddler swaddled
in dirt and snot, pulled in a child’s wagon
by two women and a man who, dirty
as the toddler, may be its parents?
What help from this poet, this volunteer
six days a week, over a year, time-fused,
the church’s community ministry, returning
to his home each day to change into
one-hundred-dollar running shoes
and try again to breathe in through his nose,
out through his mouth, the Darkness
he can’t expel?
Darkness of so many new friends
he never expected, grief for the Displaced
Poor Jesus said you will always have
with you, each story he carries
like their bags of necessities, their names
he adds to the pocket notebook,
roll call of companions who forgive him
his poems, his bookshelves of lives
he might have lived, even loved.
Today, he drives to the used-book store–
Treasures Handed Down. “If only,” he prays,
laying his hands on the spines of shelved books,
some stacked in piles on Help Yourself tables,
and finds an old friend, the 1943 edition
of Antoine de Saint Exupery’s The Little Prince,
written during the dark days of World War II,
just past the Great Depression, past
the first World War, the Spanish Influenza,
Darkness unto Darkness, and he opens
the cover to find a woman’s delicate script,
a young woman he believes, her dedication
to a young man: “A teller of secrets and
a keeper of roses,” which must have
meant something to the young woman,
the young man.
A girl mailed him the small book once,
a different war, undeclared, but deadly.
He lost it somewhere, like the girl–
a Glen Miller Moonlight Serenade
shedding the darkness
folding its wings around his friends,
these ghosts who smile and fade,
bearing for him what they can of