Sometimes we are so lost in waiting that we can’t even imagine Christmas, so lost in winter that we can’t even imagine spring, so lost in the dark that light is only a memory. In these dark times of waiting, when we are too numb to feel God’s presence, God is with us, and the Holy Spirit “intercedes with sighs too deep for words.” (Romans 8:26)
The night is cold – near zero – but not clear.
Only one bright planet shines through the ice-laden air.
The wind is nearly still; sliding in from the west,
It carries the sound of a train passing through town
And, somewhat nearer, a dog’s howl.
When I go down to the mailbox for the papers,
Along the trough of plowed driveway,
Today’s new fall crunches underfoot.
I remember that sound from my childhood;
It seemed rare then, and notable,
A grace note to fox-and-hounds or snow angels.
Now I think of the man from the cleaners coming tomorrow
With clean shirts, and I conscientiously scuff a path
Through the snow on the sidewalk with my boots.
I trudge up the hill with the papers,
And the contorted hazel stands up against the porch light,
Thin, naked branches in disarray against the light.
Behind the hazel, the yew looms in a threatening mass.
At the door, my brother’s Christmas present –
Two heavy clusters of gigantic chilies –
Blazes like an undecipherable message from another world.
When I touch the chilies, they are brittle and stiff –
Not the supple dried fruit of the south, but full of frost;
Their seeds rattle inside, a tiny sound lost in the night air.