Questions Remain

My first administrative assistant, lovely Edna,
so kind, so Southern Baptist. I can hear her
booming voice with its hint of a chuckle.

Edna prayed for me. She prayed for everyone,
but especially for this beer-drinking Yankee
who didn’t believe in heaven,

and so surely is going to hell.
My definition of hell is to never know
the answers to my long list of questions,

while forever craving, deeply yearning.
I had a boss say, “I don’t know what you don’t
know.” I said, “I don’t know what I don’t know.”
I know which of us is smarter.

I dwell on life’s great mysteries but find
the small ones equally confounding:
The Bermuda Triangle and traffic circles.

I flinch when I see a silverfish
or a centipede in the house.
I ask it: What are you doing up here?
You have the entire basement.

Even when they trespass, like the thin spider
that dropped from the ceiling
into the white porcelain bowl
while I was making breakfast,

rather than squash it
I transported the creature outside and
shooed it into the strawberry bed.

I strive each day to be more a source of light
than just a reflection of it.

Human cruelty perplexes me.
The death of a glacier saddens me.
Kind acts make me cry.

While human indifference incenses me,
my cat’s indifference makes me laugh.

If I’m wrong and Edna’s right,
I’m going to miss seeing
a lot of good people when I die,
and I know I won’t get answers there.

And still I ask the questions:
What is my place in the universe?
Where did I park the car?

Nora’s Lullaby

Welcome, baby,
to end of day.
Time for dreams
to carry you away.

You’ve kissed your mommy,
your daddy, too.
Hugged your brother
and he’s hugged you.

We’ve read a story,
now your head nods.
We say our prayers,
give thanks to God.

Good night, baby.
Welcome sleep.
In my heart
you’ll always keep.

In my heart
you’ll always keep.

~ AJ

A cup of water

A village woman stands at the periphery,
a jug of water balanced on one hip.
She holds her daughter’s hand
until the young girl, bored watching
the scene in front of her,
pulls free to chase a lamb.

The woman waits for her moment
to slip between the important men
uttering prayers, slides an earthen
cup from a fold in her skirts
and fills it with cool water.

The new mother, mouth dry from
laboring in the dusty stable,
welcomes the woman’s gift
with outstretched hands.

She pushes aside the pouch
of gold, a vial of myrrh,
the pungent frankincense, and
pats the empty space beside her.

From the little boy on the corner of Orkney and York

I’m not angry.
I’m hurt or scared
or embarrassed.
Don’t humiliate me.
Not at home. Not at school.
Not on the street.
Don’t show the world
how powerful you are
by yelling at me,
slapping me.
Show the world how strong
you are when you hug me.

Acknowledge me.

You’re hurt and scared
and embarrassed.
Be strong through kindness.
Feel your anger leave.