December 23rd Flight from Bangor to Washington DC
Most of us try to sleep while we hurtle through middle space
between stars and city lights,
between where we were and where we will arrive.
Miles above darkened churches where tomorrow we gather
to sing Silent Night tipping unlit candles toward the fire
till every face is a circle of light.
The woman in the seat next to me twiddles her thumbs
back and forth, forth and back. The rest of her hand clasped loosely.
In the space between each finger I see no rushing.
This is not a movement to pass time.
She ate the bag of pretzels so slowly.
She knows time is what we move through.
I said goodbye to a family in Maine decorating their tree.
A wide pine cut from the frosted woods,
snow melting on the cedar floor.
The doorway framing their laughter and jabs
is marked with pencil lines that touched
the top of heads as each child grew.
Beyond the house is a small graveyard
where Harriet and her husband have lain since 1833
under stones alive with white and orange splotches of fungus.
The bottom branches of the pine that didn’t fit
under the nine foot beams were tossed in the front yard
where it will dry and become kindling. Tree rings
marking each pencil thin year of growth, oozing sap
until it burns birthing smoke that curls
high into the silent night.
– Julia Baker-Swann
“This is not a movement to pass time.” In airports people wait to leave and others wait for those to arrive. We have been waiting these last weeks in the growing dark for there to be an arrival of light beyond imagination. In Luke we hear, “He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly” (1:52). There is a harshness on a cold winter night to a naked body. There is a harshness to ears that only listen and do not speak these truths. What does God wait for as her child is born “into the silent night”?
– Thomas Baker-Swann
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