The slaughter of the innocents

slow reads:

Something you don’t see in a Christmas pageant: the slaughter of the innocents. But there it is, in the middle of Matthew’s account.

When Bethlehem’s young children were slain, Jesus was in Egypt. Joseph had been warned in a dream.

But Moses was already in Egypt. As an infant, he escaped by water, the means by which his pursuers were to perish.

Matthew’s baby Jesus is peripatetic, dodging bullets & fulfilling scripture. “Out of Egypt have I called my son.” “He shall be called a Nazarene.”

Luke: baby Jesus with the lambs. Matthew: baby Jesus on the lam.

Touching the water

Creature of the Shade:

So why water? Things present themselves most intensely right at the edge of their absence. This is the intrinsic drama of the urban waterfront — so much complexity right up against what reads to us as vast emptiness. Touching a large body of water is a contact-with-the-infinite that intensifies my sensation of the richness of the finite. So, after touching the water, I turn back — to the city or landscape that was behind me — and can how feel (not just know) that I’m seeing something that is vulnerable, contingent, even doomed sooner or later, and therefore real.

White Christmas

snowy trail

Nothing is more innocent than snow.
It says: I am not of your world.

We wonder: What child is this,
what wool, what milk?

Then we look back & see our footprints
multiplying behind us.

Maybe this is nothing but a white flag.
But whose turn is it to surrender?

New snow falls & fills the footprints in.
We feel we are being measured for immaculate shoes.

Dear Life,

This entry is part 3 of 29 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Winter 2012-13


what is wonder but knowledge of that
which we could not ever anticipate?

Light slants toward the west—
its passing brilliance sears
the eyes and leaves us often

breathless— as if for the first time,
every time. And do we know more now
than we did yesterday, or less?

The birds come back to search
for seed cached in the wintry soil:
under the eaves, in groves

of roughened trees— They’ve never
learned; or they are wiser, trusting
they will find their portion.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.


Appetite, oh appetite we’ve fed, you’re hungry all over again—
Baked bread torn into chunks, dipped in a wide-mouthed bowl
coated with olive oil and sweet balsamic vinegar, its name
derived from fragrant plants with gummy oleoresins—
Eggplants roasted till their shiny purple skins
furrow into soft creases and their limp bodies
go into a mix of chopped tomatoes, onions, and cilantro.
How to manage the midnight cravings when there is nothing
in the cupboard except stale crackers and dubious green
jelly, nothing but the crumbs in an old pack of cookies?
Kippers, a hard-boiled egg, thin wheels of red onion.
Latkes with applesauce or sour cream, lox on bagels.
Meatloaf with a side of mashed potatoes. But
nothing quite satisfies the hunger for origins
otherwise known as the hunger for home, than
plates composed again from memory— At Christmas,
queso de bola and plump round fruit on the table,
ruddy with hopes for luck and wealth. Rich
stews flavored with olives, bell peppers, and laurel leaf;
tongue rendered tender in a mushroom sauce. The soul
understands what we hanker for: not just the outward
veneer of all these tastes and textures, but
what they signify: hands that diced and chopped,
extracted trellises of bone from milkfish and carefully
yoked shred skins back to their substance. Feed me, though
zen might be a state of bliss without the hunger pangs.


In response to small stone (184).


This entry is part 21 of 22 in the series Alternate Histories


tree upended
made to flower downward
into the dark sky of the dead

who feed & return
who stand in circles
& spring after spring resprout
leaves of malachite


Wikipedia: “Theories about the site have focused on the idea of inversion, as represented by the upside-down central tree stump and the single post turned 180 degrees from the others within the circle itself. The theme of inversion has been noticed in some Early Bronze Age burials.”

Déjà vu

This entry is part 2 of 29 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Winter 2012-13


It was winter then as it is now,
when ghosts emerge with the quick dark.

I wanted to swallow the stars,
dark-pointed and smelling of anise.

I wanted to put away for good those old
angers I thought I’d dispatched.

They flickered, elusive as ever
—though not as powerful.

When next I looked, only small
brown birds picking through gravel.

I’d seen that dirty mirror before, rubbed
its edges with the corner of a sleeve.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

The women on the wall

It’s almost too perfect.

The roar of the presses that ruled these rooms has been replaced, just as we all suspected, with the calculated silence of the conduit that carries our data. This data, in fact. These very photos.

100 years from now, when another one of you goes spelunking around this basement, that data, those bits, today’s moments, will likely be long, long gone.

But the women on the wall might still be waiting.