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 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 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 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.