At the Winter Solstice

December 15, 2014

The pines look black in the half-
light of dawn. Stillness . . .
While we slept an inch of new snow
simplified the field. Today of all days
the sun will shine no more
than is strictly necessary.

At the village church last night
the boys—shepherds and wisemen—
pressed close to the manger in obedience,
wishing only for time to pass;
but the girl dressed as Mary trembled
as she leaned over the pungent hay,
and like the mother of Christ
wondered why she had been chosen.

After the pageant, a ruckus of cards,
presents, and homemade Christmas sweets.
A few of us stayed to clear the bright
scraps and ribbons from the pews,
and lift the pulpit back in place.

When I opened the hundred-year-old Bible
to Luke’s account of the Epiphany
black dust from the binding rubbed off
on my hands, and on the altar cloth.