Because spirits gifted winter on our doorsteps,
and because the way the rain morphed
into pieces of Advent and Christmas and New Year,
we celebrate by turning on the fire.
I have often wished for “real fire,” the kind
that starts with wood, not gas and switches.
But on a day when trees lean in to introduce
themselves, it matters not—and besides,
I can greet the pines without guilt. Good fire
is good fire, after all, and heat as essential as skin.
Our children cut cardstock into Christmas greetings,
shapes transformed to acts of love, the scent
of plenty and light, the sound of pages turning,
and I wonder how the other half lives.
But then again, I know.
There are no fires in the tents of the homeless,
no paper or scissors or glue sticks,
no green bows or hot, spiced tea, or computer
keys tapping out poems. There are bellies
and fright of the poor, icicles threatening
canvass and bone, sneakers in lieu of boots,
sterno a luxury sometimes shared.
We light a candle for them—real fire, real wax,
real affluence, these dry matches and wicks. We
recite Biblical stories, angels declaring salvation,
manger protecting an awaited king, animal breath
heating hay. And at this moment, with snow
blocking our way to action,
the best we can do is hope.
Dec. 6, 2009