Grace and Peace to you.
John the Baptist takes his ax down to the frozen river.
Black trees, scalpel wind, malignant cold, blades of light.
The gift does not come easy. Death comes first
in this season of longing and refusal, the denial of the ice.
We go by way of brokenness. The living wound, the surgery.
Offenses hacked wide open. The ax, the confession. Dig in.
(Under the ice the grave water, so lovely, so cruel,
the terrible rebirth. Even good news a shock to the system,
the chemo, the first step, the sword of the angel of life.
It makes you take a breath like you’ve never taken before
You come up out of the water grabbing breath,
gasping like a newborn, fierce for that given air.)
But first the ice, the breaking through, the ax.
You’ll bear the disappointment of the gift withheld,
and set your shoulders to the hard work of staying alive.
But look, there’s been a thaw: the ice has given in,
the brook is open. The ax is laid at the root of the trees.
Something releases. You sing in thanks with curling breath.
Beneath the ice the black water was always moving, telling you,
beneath the sin or cancer or despair a dark grace, constant,
flows: an opening. An offering. Remission.
Winter and its pain won’t disappear. The seasons roll
like breath drawn out and in, and death will come and leave
again like geese. But you can be amazed, and even grateful.
Now you hear the song of winter birds you hadn’t heard,
the faithful voice: “Beloved, ice will vanish and return,
but this light is forever. I am with you. You are mine.”
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