Poem for November
———-Ephesians 5: 8-20.
Many trees are mere stencils now,
but some still dazzle, those with light
in their yellow leaves, this even
as November skies stretch mute
It is easy this time of year
to dwell on losses and the world
so shattered, even watching this translucent
yellow tree, whose light one could read by,
this blaze against the dimming season.
And we are gathered, each one of us,
in this autumn dilemma,
both anchored and adrift.
Like Eve reaching for Adam’s hand
as they stand, stunned,
outside the gates.
Or that child, Mary, who in the silence
after Gabriel’s startling news,
wonders, “Should I say yes?”
Or Paul, the persecutor, eyes scaled,
his mouth a thin, straight
line, his heart in its first
ever motion of turning over.
Or two thousand years later
those rabbis at Auschwitz
who put God on trial,
then turned to evening prayer.
Or the aging professor
who said that when he cannot
forgive, he simply acts as if he had.
These images may seem splinters,
fragments scattered and aimless.
But we are not so twisted
that we cannot see the cross’s
change from torture into bliss,
from blood and slivers
into the gleam of polished
planks for Christ, arms
raised in victory.
So here we gather
in all of our imperfections,
waiting for song to blaze into the dark
corners, as this year races
toward both finalés and preludes.
Listen. Soon one clear voice will blend
with another. Anchored by the rush
of melody we will catch hold
of the whole breath and timbre
of the moment and together
in this world so prone to drift,
we will see by the cross,
the tree of light, pure music.
Jill Peláez Baumgaertner is the Poetry Editor for Christian Century. Her most-recent poetry collection What Cannot Be Fixed appears as part of the Poiema Poetry Series from Cascade Books. She is Professor of English Emerita at Wheaton College.
Posted: 06 November 2019