In the Bleak Midwinter

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The words of my best-loved dead poet notwithstanding, midwinter is not at Christmas time. Rather, it is now, as the grey days of January ghost into the grey days of February; now, when it’s increasingly hard to remember green and golden days of sunshine, and nearly impossible to imagine that they will come again.

My best-loved living poet understands this season well, and gives me words for the blank emptiness I often feel this time of year. But marvelously, miraculously, he also reminds me that it is a season which will pass, one which I will remember not only for its heaviness, but also for truths laid bare, strength given to hold on, and the tenacity of hope.

Because We Hunkered Down
by Malcolm Guite

These bleak and freezing seasons may mean grace
when they are memory. In time to come
when we speak truth, then they will have their place,
telling the story of our journey home,
through dark December and stark January
with all its disappointments, through the murk
and dreariness of frozen February,
when even breathing seemed unwelcome work.

Because through all of these we held together,
because we shunned the impulse to let go,
because we hunkered down through our dark weather,
and trusted to the soil beneath the snow,
slowly, slowly, turning a cold key,
Spring will unlock our hearts and set us free.

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My November Guest

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My Sorrow, when she’s here with me,
thinks these dark days of autumn rain
are beautiful as days can be;
she loves the bare, the withered tree;
she walks the sodden pasture lane.

Her pleasure will not let me stay.
She talks and I am fain to list:
She’s glad the birds are gone away,
she’s glad her simple worsted gray
is silver now with clinging mist.

The desolate deserted trees,
the faded earth, the heavy sky,
the beauties she so truly sees,
she thinks I have no eye for these,
and vexes me for reason why.

Not yesterday I learned to know
the love of bare November days
before the coming of the snow,
but it were vain to tell her so,
and they are better for her praise.

~ Robert Frost

Portrait of my Grandmother

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The hands that tied this apron on every morning
that I can remember first picked a hundred pounds
of cotton in a day at age five.
They wrote out sums and spelling words
through eighth grade, then went back
to the more necessary work of picking
peaches, beans, cotton, whatever was in season.

They accepted a simple silver band from
the also-calloused hands of a mechanic
one day right in the middle of the Great Depression,
and they laid down the tow sack and picked up the apron.

Those hands cared for a man and his clothes,
their house and their babies.
They cooked three hot meals every day
and washed up the dishes by hand.
They made the clothes and the quilts,
and ran them through the wringer washer,
and hung them on the line to dry.

Those hands cut and combed and braided hair.
They bound up cuts and burns
and placed cool cloths on fevered foreheads.
They canned peaches and made piecrust
and fried chicken and carried food
to new mothers and grieving widows.
They wrote letters, cut coupons and paper dolls,
and taught smaller hands to crochet.

Those hands planted and watered and weeded.
They could put a dry stick in a pot of dirt  and it
would grow. They ironed other women’s husbands’
shirts to pick up a few dollars here and there.
They cleaned the church on Wednesday mornings
and put dimes in the offering plate on Sundays.

Those hands were never idle until they were
folded on her breast in a peaceful pose.

Some people’s lives are written on their faces.
My grandmother’s story was held in her hands.

~ Rebekah Choat

April Fooling

April Fooling

 image by Rebekah Choat

Shining morning turn-
i
ng to storm-
ing without warning:

pounding raining, wild
wind gusting,
thundering raging,

roaring, screaming, then
relenting,
gradual gentling,

sudden sun gleaming,
breeze sweeping
streaming clouds away. 

                        ~ Rebekah Choat