Bethlehem

Bethlehem
   by Dan Behrens
   
Bethlehem
City of David
Ephrath of old
My home
Village among the cliffs
Your lamp has not gone out.
   
Oh Bethlehem
My heart
How you keep the bones of Rachel
You birth the sons of Jesse
How you hide the men of valor
Feed the lambs of sinners.
   
Bethlehem
Oh house of meat
Your carved crags shelter shepherds
Outside the Temple gates
You oh house of bread
Seal up your earthen doors.
   
Oh Bethlehem
Herod’s horses Herod’s swords
Hide your infants
Hide my heart
Your lamp has not gone out
There among the cliffs.
   
Bethlehem
Feed us all the prophet’s song
Wherein your womb is moved
Wherein the road does end
“for unto you is born this day”
Your shepherds bring us in.
   
Oh Bethlehem
All angels softly sing
My journey home
To Bethlehem
My heart
Oh light among the cliffs.
   

Mondays at Mary-Haven Nursing Home, Snohomish

Mondays at Mary-Haven Nursing Home, Snohomish
   by Dan Behrens
   
Applesauce is all she really eats,
Ellis all she really smiles at.
   
A slow slipping away into something
More redemptive and young
   
Gram will never again feel,
Let alone hold in her atrophied arms.
   
Fewer words each time I visit.
More staring. More sleep.
   
Different pair of caregivers today,
Busying themselves with pudding or plasticware,
   
The tv volume, ice. I turn the blinds
Enough for her to look out toward
   
Machias of the late 30’s
And the stationhouse there
   
She’s long since left. Tears.
Our times together grow shorter. Her recall
   
Of names now near nothing. Whether ever married.
Where she is. My face. I squeeze her hand
   
And read of the still, quiet waters in the Psalms
Till Ephrod—the afternoon nurse—stops in.
   
Here we go Bobby, he says. Lift for me...
Come on now. Role. Sponge. Towel. Cream.
   
All for a fresh diaper.
Whatever pain there is is distant,
   
Ephrod says. But what does he know
Of the slowly slipping away,
   
The long drive home,
The mirage of memories
   
Beyond the Bellevue high-rise,
Back down the Renton Valley?
   

After Apples

After Apples
   by Dan Behrens
   
October twenty-eight—
My father’s birthday,
After the Whitetail high hunt,
Town’s holiday harvest lighting,
A first frost on our Orchard grass.
   
After apples. Dinner. A few cards.
The annual end we all know
Apart from my one recurring dream
Of dad falling from a picking ladder—
Ribs breaking. Gasping.
   
Pointing me the pasture’s length
To Corrigan’s and a phone.
Only nine. Confused. Crazed.
Poised for flight
Like a mass of Mule Deer
   
Scattered among the trees, among
The sharp Fall frost, erect
And peering into all that gathers us
Into ourselves, like an inevitable diagnosis
After all our apples have fallen to the ground.
   

The Mere Mention of Fishing

The Mere Mention of Fishing
    by Dan Behrens

Ten years old.
Early summer.
Mom’s up, eager
To get us to the garden,
To snap peas, rows of corn
Not nearly wide enough
For dreams to expand.
 
Cumulus stack
Just north of us
As I pine on and on
About a fishing trip
Dad mentioned. Diablo Lake.
 
Magpies on mesh wire
Peck at Mom’s nerves,
Cawing for spilt peas
Or an early strawberry.
A single bull thistle
Rises among the radishes.
Our first year for radishes.
 
My older sister sets
A sprinkler.
The soft dark earth
Squeezes up through my toes.
I am on to beans now,
 
Chattering on and on
If only to the sun overhead,
Exhausting her patience,
Keeping her off
The evening mountains
Till I make it over to Rhubarb
And the fish-teemed shallows of Diablo.