Advent 1: Pine

Early evening, cool of day, we walk
in the garden to find
evergreen branches to weave a wreath of hope.
My son is distracted. Not tall enough to reach with me,
he stands to watch but soon
decides instead to help
pile the compost heap with grass.

Evergreen and humus: these symbols arrest
as I finish my gathering and crush
fallen leaves to settle the soil
where it sits and brews in ever-cycling growth.
The constant, the growing, the long slow wait of growth
all have their moment in our pining Advent days.

Botany for Children

The touseled children
have their own way
with trees,
their own classification…
(Chris Wallace-Crabbe, “Timber”)

Some are named for likeness
to familiar things: the lemon tree
in Nanna’s garden becomes
a prototype for all other trees
in all other gardens.

And some are named
by analogy or comparison:
big tree, little tree,
special tree; and what
is bottlebrush but a metaphor turned
to proper use?

Yet others gain
the specificity of the eager learner,
like Adam flushed
with the daily discovery of all
living things and growing things,

and as tongue learns it way
around the tangled mechanics of thought,
a surprise clarity: paperbark!
a joyful melaleuca.

Streets to Live In (Glenroy Lent #4)

For now, where do we live?
These streets are made for walking:
quiet, reflective, built atop a hill where the cityscape
sinks beneath a thoughtful gaze.
No walls to be broken, no walls to repair;
watered gardens greet the roaming eye,
and here
an expectant couple waits
at the edge of the evening street.
Fruit trees, plane trees, crickets in the night:
all of this is built for peace,
but never built to last.

10 Ways to Embrace the Ring Road

Embrace it.
No other time of day can you sit still,
without compunction.
Here schedules mean nothing.
You may be late; that cannot be stopped.
Yet you can stop. You can look
at clumps of grass and broccoli gums
in wetlands and wonder how they looked
before this road was even thought.
You can watch
the faces as the windows pass
(no other time of day will you
see so many lives entwine).
Invent their stories.
Stop and know your own.
Hold last night’s mess in your hands
as you steer today’s wheel.
Consider the day.
Pluck your nose hair.
Watch birds fly back and forth in sequence
and fancy them a wind-blown sheet.
Name the clouds with metaphors
(a waterfall, a needle,
a walrus’s moustache).
Scan the forgotten gorges of your city and learn
how distances must be covered to move
to where you want to be.
Trace the sun as it chases the trees.
Learn all the textures of its light.
Watch the evening drape the sky.
Prise open this day’s grace.

Winter came

            unnoticed; we
thought it had arrived.
 
            The subtle lull
                        of autumn tricked us
            with its need for cardigans
                        and leaves aesthetically arranged
                                    on garden floors and streets.
 
We thought the worst had come,
            forgot
                        how true cold feels
            on toes.
                       And now:
            the need for scarves
                        in bags (in case)
            and duffle coats;
the huddled walk
            of chilling feet
                        and all the proud offense of those
            who do not know the cold.
 
Father hands:
            please keep us warm.
The winter does not sit with us.
                        And strengthen mumbling
            grumbling minds
                        to take the worst
            that comes.