What they found ... Christmas poem
What they found
The light teased them that night. drawing them
away from carpeted hallways, for days
shivering, blizzards erasing their way, invisible
star calling their names.
Desert heat, sun, tepid water. Ground burned.
Sleep never came, between scorpions and thieves. All
sand looked the same, stretched for miles nowhere.
They told stories, memories of home
swirling through dreams.
Families searched, forgot, went on.
Resigned to wandering, so did they.
In the distance, odd light, growing
it seemed from the earth, no visible source.
The house, when they found it, was simple.
A puzzled couple greeted them. Their child, playing,
stared, curious, then returned to his toys.
Was this right?
But unsure what else to do, they left the gifts,
knowing it was time.
Poem and photo by Diane McManus
A note... I was thinking about what the Magi could have encountered after traveling so far, maybe in response to a dream, a star, something that motivated them to keep pursuing the light from the star for miles and months (I'll leave the question of whether this journey actually took place to others to discuss. For now, I just want to reflect on what that journey might mean for the rest of us. Did they come upon a family excited to see them? Or a family that, by then, had developed a routine and settled into the daily rituals of being a couple, caring for a child? How might they have reacted to three strangers coming to their door with gifts. This isn't Publishers' Clearinghouse. And they may have been so taken by surprise not to realize the significance of the event right off.
Yet there these strangers were with gifts they'd brought and wondering too if they'd come to the right address... they were pretty sure, perhaps, but when we follow our stars or intuitions, we do sometimes ask questions. Still, they left the gifts in faith, maybe not knowing, maybe not certain, but sensing the path and following it.
For so many of us, that's our journey--not always certain, yet trying to stay true to who we are and what we believe is right. The heroism is in the journey, and the affirmation is in the gifts we continue to give, in faith that they've found the right home.
Here are a couple of poems I read last night at an open reading, but have not yet posted here--until now. I also read "Flip Turn Lesson" which appears in the previous blog entry. I hadn't noticed until I read the poems how interconnected they all were with water--and two of them with birth ("White Screen on Water" and "Flip Turn Lesson").
The first, "White Screen," I wrote in 2014 on a ferry traveling from Logan Airport to Hull--a ferry I wouldn't be on had the operator not had mercy, heard my shouts and waves, and returned to the dock to pick me up! Having my laptop with me, I opened it to write but not wanting everyone on the ferry to see what I was writing, I wrote in white on a white screen. At that time, I was visiting Boston to run the National Masters Indoor Track Championships (ran the 800--in the same heat as a woman who broke a 60-64 age group record!), but Boston is always a kind of homecoming for me, as I was born there, and that feeling surfaced for me during that ferry ride. At the time, though, I also reflected on what it might be like to swim in those waters, maybe in the Boston Light Swim--by then it was on my horizon as a daydream, a possibility but a distant one still. It almost seems as if this body of water is entwined for me with the Great South Bay, both bringing me to birth in a way.
White screen on water
Text turned white
while riding the ferry to Hull.
The plane skirted the coast, water turning color
as it shallowed.
The laptop hides secrets.
I want to give them a gift, but all I have
are gummy bears bought in the Hyatt lobby, which turn iconic as
planes descend over water.
Now I look up,
in Boston, I still inhabit
its water, its Irishness, its islands, some invisible.
Unseen my words are, as I see
birds flying in tandem, coupled birds, lives
in the making. I will race.
The water moves me,
I write blankly, onlookers seeing
only the squiggles that warn of errors. I see
sun on water, birds and buoys, and the world
widening into ocean.
The next poem, written summer 2015, was inspired by my swim coach, John Kenny's challenge to me to swim 8x50 butterfly. This is my weakest swim stroke and, for that reason possibly, the one I want most to master (but it's a difficult dance, and I'm still in the early stages....)
Waking the butterfly
Beautiful and bright it should be on the surface, feathery and evanescent, one colour melting into another like the colours on a butterfly’s wing; but beneath the fabric must be clamped together with bolts of iron. It was to be a thing you could ruffle with your breath; and a thing you could not dislodge with a team of horses. –Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse
That day at the Y, the swimmer called it
a dance, pushing off wavelike, wings for arms, reaching
the wall, laughing. Just try the kick.
Keep trying -- Like Ginger, promising
Still larval, I try,
cough, stop, no magic in these ruffled wings
Remember there is iron, remember push-off. Pick yourself up.
I’m terrible at this!
He doesn’t stop. Something stirs inside
the cocoon, breaking bits at a time.
It’s a dance.
We have begun.
We will fly.
The open reading: a truly lovely affair--we were originally to be in a separate room upstairs but because the owner of Xolol's Tacos didn't get word in time, he'd scheduled another event. However, he was most gracious and gave us all free drinks. We were seated at a table near the window, maybe 8 of us, with five readers (including me). What variety--humor and tragedy, childhood and old age, and in between. These readings occur monthly, organized by Tracy Kaufman Wood, who read a very funny memoir about Jewish children in a public school participating in an Easter bonnet contest around the time of Passover. Not an easy act to follow, but we were a most encouraging group!
A swimmer's Crhistmas gift
By way of background, although I've increased my swimming a lot lately, I've been afraid to do the flip turn that other swimmers do with such ease and that I used to be able to do--but had a bad experience with this kind of turn about ten years ago--and have never wanted to do them again. But the coaches of my masters' team have been urging us to try them, and so I decided I would learn--and got a very wonderful instructor/sport psychologist to help me (Rebecca Smith--I hope she doesn't mind being mentioned!)
She was extremely patient and helpful not only in showing me the mechanics of the turn but in facing the fears I was experiencing.
So as a kind of gift to her, I'm sharing this poem here (and maybe elsewhere).
Flip turn lessons
Look up at your toes
from underwater, fluorescent light shocks.
Memories of somersaults, safe inside
amniotic fluid. Time getting closer. Not ready. Frozen.
She calms me. Breathe.
Baptism at the pool, no priest
we are not in a hurry.
One movement, then another. Fear
dissolves. Time now.
She is a midwife, whatever she calls herself,
turning me over, head in position. No breech
The moment comes. Delivered.