Patio Pavers

Patio Pavers
   by Dan Behrens
More cinder than stone,
Four dozen patio pavers
Lay behind our tool shed,
Misplaced, abandoned,
Exposed and melting away
Under the long linger of rain—
This heap of garden bricks
That once hedged off roses,
Retained a lofted green bed,
Perhaps encircled a school of Koi
Or encamped evening fires
For a family who lived here.
Now unearthed,
I scrape, wash, and stack
These moss-coated slabs
Erect as an Incan altar
Beside our broken gate,
Like something conjured
Out of the womb of earth,
A small tower of fidelity
I’ll later use to reset
The sagging porch,
A near nod to whomever
Kept this yard before me—
Her hands. His dirt. Their Eden.
This evening, I’ll cut the grass,
Gathering Lilac clippings,
Toss some fertilizer
And set upon these neglected stones
To help us turn the corner,
To hear again the ancient utterance
Of new birth, the miraculous
Marriage of symmetry and chaos,
Like Babel's tower in her infancy
Before the scattering and the falling apart,
Before our creative language severed,
Our sacred union wedged
To the far reaches of earth.

The Release of St Peter

The Release of St Peter
            —Acts 12:6-19
   by Dan Behrens
There is that story
among all the Acts
of the apostles,
where the house of Mary
is itself a house of prayer—
a lighted city
above the valley of the world.
Fervent believers praying inside
fervently praying, believing,
while outside in the street
new men find themselves
walking about.
New men. Free men.
Unrecognizable men
under the dark of night,
under the arm of the empire,
under the Spirit of God.
Still, how little is made
of that servant girl Rhoda,
and all that was accomplished
through her at the gate—
this magnanimous release of St Peter,
and the train of the church
thundering through the ages.


   by Dan Behrens
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.
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.
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?