As darkness settles over the land,
we gather above the wide river —
some thousands of us Americans
come for Fourth of July fireworks.
Our long shadows linger in the last
light, entangling us with one another,
and perhaps with the shadows of armies
once encamped here, waiting for war.
God knows, we’ve fought enough
these past few years — it’s been us
versus you, we the red & we the blue;
and even we who would wave
the white flag of truces
have shed our share of blood
and borne our share of bruises.
But for now we sheath our phones,
unfurling billowing blankets instead:
a pop-up patchwork quilt scavenged
from leftover scraps of our common-
weal. We are happy to move a little
to the right, or a little to the left,
making room so our neighbors can see
unimpeded by our big heads. Milk-sweet
babies drowse in our laps and children
chase by, barefoot, haloed by glow-
sticks; a few of the teens flirt, subtle as
the fireflies floating off in the woods.
The rest of us sit, happy enough to be
here, together, waiting for the first
notes of our common song of praise,
waiting for that first sharp spark
to rekindle our ancestral fire. …
Twitter exploded in the most predictable of ways following the announcement of the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. It took minutes, not hours, for some users to unsheathe the partisan knives, deploying the same toxic rhetoric that has been poisoning our political discourse for years: name calling, personal attacks, cruel taunts, bullying, veiled (and not-so-veiled) threats of violence.
But there were plenty of tributes and condolences, too, from both sides of the political divide — heartening not only for their basic civility, but for showing that despite our political differences, most Americans still believe that we share certain foundational values that transcend those differences. …
My grandfather didn’t like to talk about the war,
but if you asked, he would share this story.
On a cold April morning just outside Monte Casino,
he walks into a field, dry stalks breaking under his feet.
His living breath makes small curling clouds of fog,
lit by the morning light for the space of a heartbeat
before vanishing on the breeze. White frost flecks
the land, and the men lying dead upon it. He pauses
before the form of a youth looking up as if perplexed
by the snowflakes falling from this clear morning sky;
or perhaps wondering why he is dead, his head haloed
by a frozen pool of black blood.
My grandfather crouches, contemplates the young face
as if it were an icon, as if it belonged to someone
he ought to know, or ought to have known, someday. …
Does anyone else wake up at 3 a.m. worrying about the future of democracy in America, or is it just me?
As I lay there in the dark listening to the snoring of our asthmatic dog, I find myself wondering what will happen in the aftermath of the November elections. This being the middle of the night, the doom-and-gloom side of my imagination has free reign, serving up nightmare scenarios like these:
My daughter wants nothing to do with her high school graduation: she doesn’t want to wear the cap and gown, she doesn’t want to take graduation pictures, and she definitely doesn’t want to participate in a ceremony. Luckily for her, the in-person ceremony was canceled, replaced by an online ceremony. Even so, she views it all as just so much empty ritual.
I can’t say I entirely disagree with her. I felt the same way about my own high school graduation back in…(erhum, cough, cough)…well, a long time ago. …
I have come here to harvest humus
from the rotten bottom of the compost
I left by the apple tree last fall.
Raking away the shrouding cover
of dry leaves reveals the dark heart
of newborn earth.
Leaning into the spade,
I slice through the soil
and lift it into the rusty wheelbarrow.
The apple tree stands by,
her wide boughs bespangled
with white blossoms:
she has thrown herself into spring,
pouring perfume over my head,
and over the greening land,
with no thought to the cost —
a bride beaming beneath her veil,
every night her wedding night.
The bumblebees seem bedazzled;
they float from bough to bough
in reverent attendance, kissing each
blossom once, twice, three times. …
Every Sunday since things shut down for the coronavirus emergency, I have been taking an hour or two to connect with far-off friends and family. And while I’ve done a few group video calls, I’ve actually logged way more time on old-fashioned voice calls. You know — no speech-to-text, no chance to review before hitting “send.” No bells and whistles; just you and your conversational dance partner, the two of you taking turns making up a shared story that neither of you could ever tell by yourselves.
Apparently, I’m not alone. In early April, AT&T reported a 35 percent surge in voice calls, and Verizon reported handling more than 800 million voice calls per weekday, more than twice as many as on Mother’s Day. Just think of that: Mother’s Day times two, every day. And those calls lasted about 33 percent longer than typical, too. Those numbers are down a little now, but we’re still making more phone calls than on a typical pre-COVID-19 day. …
Anna should not open the door for the beautiful woman in black. How many times have her parents warned her against opening the door for strangers while she is home alone? Up until now, she has obediently ignored the various delivery people, politicians, salesmen, missionaries — and yes, even Girl Scouts, with their promises of Thin Mints — who have rung the bell at 12 Cherry Street.
Then again, none of those people were nearly as beautiful as the woman at the door. None of them arrived during the blizzard of the century. …
And promise to speak bravely always
— for these are the seeds from which
the kingdom of heaven comes, rushing
and rising from earth’s plain dust. Don’t
let surfaces fool you; everything is lit
brightly from within. Small brown seeds
sift red jewels from the soil and hang
them in the sun, sparkling with magic
(small beginnings are God’s best trick).
As a child I knew that an apple tree
is a kingdom onto itself; so let us sow
seeds for a kingdom in this good soil,
and see whether God has up his sleeve
a yield of one hundredfold or more. …
Imagine, for a moment, that some technological genius has invented a time machine, and you are one of a handful of people selected to take it for a spin as part of a promotional campaign. You can go to any time and place in the past, on the condition that you meet a famous historical figure and return to tell the modern world about him or her.
As a Christian, you wonder what it would be like to meet Jesus, face to face…to walk with him along the roads, fields, and seashores of ancient Palestine. You could see him work miracles and hear him preach with your own eyes and ears. …