National Catholic Reporter
The Independent Newsweekly
Issue Date:  December 19, 2003


Merry Medical Report

Christmas brings a sign of benign
Enlargement of the heart

We share each other’s joys
The kids are coming home
And griefs
It’s hard this time of year
And are expanded in our humanity

Industrial-strength warmth
Flows through narrowing arteries

Quotidian concern would soon return
But ah! Delay it!

Call not the cardiologist
Who could sedate us
Nor the shrink
Who may deflate us

Hail rather one another fondly
Calling without cease

-- Sally Leighton
Elmhurst, Ill.

Out of Darkness

The time came for her to be delivered.
Luke 2:6

My womb tightens again, again; the baby is
I want my mother as I breathe with these tides
of pain.
Joseph waits, watches, worries. Young, I know little,
but now know this: birthing is slow, hard, and singular.
A rush of water, of blood, and he is born. His first cry
echoes my last cry

Out of darkness he has come, into darkness he is,
a shaft of starlight brightens the stable-night.
lifts him to my breast; he suckles and tastes sweetness,
the first gift of life. I gaze into new eyes. Damp skin
shivers in the chill, still air. I wrap swaddling
around him like a shroud.

-- Mary Willette Hughes
Waite Park, Minn.

Come to Bethlehem
(Luke 2:15, 24:6)

Come to Beth-
lehem and see:
There is no
Baby Jesus (there
only used to be).
The Infant whom you seek
has grown and learned
to speak: HE IS NOT HERE.

He did not cling to swaddling clothes,
to Angels singing Glory
nor to those who came on camel
bringing kingly trinkets unbecoming children.

He did not cling to titles nor to trifles --
never would he cling to any-
thing -- but rose above the infantile
to childhood entirely.

Perhaps his empty
crib is a prelude
to the wholeness
of your childhood & may-
be crucial to your
fully empty

-- Ed Beutner

-- CNS/Don Blake

Thinking about what happens to the old birds in winter,

an old bird myself and winter coming on
and wondering if the geraniums in their clay pots
will make it this year.
Left to themselves, naked and strung up by their
with boot laces, they do fine
without food, water, light.

Under a harvest moon, we carry the bed up to the attic,
closer to the idea of God --
while on the ledge above the sink, a bumble bee, his
   face buried
in an October gardenia and thinking that heaven
   smells like Billy Holiday --
backs out of the blossom
and watches at the window where someone

erased the night, leaving a fence of long-leafed pines
to earmark the edge of things.

-- Mary Hennessy
Raleigh, N.C.

Bad Girl: Christmas 1986

Her mother plays an Irish flute;
Her father, button accordion.


the whole year spent
at war with her parents.

   But, on this night,

torn between saving face
and pouring out remorse,

   she smokes one more

and sneaks down the stairs
just far enough to sit and,


hear them play
“What Child Is This?”

   one last time

-- Dale Wisely
Birmingham, Ala.

           the women of Bethlehem
        the slaughter of the innocents

evening breezes cradle them . . .
rocking back and forth
they know

-- Sr. Lou Ella Hickman, IWBS
Corpus Christi, Texas

National Catholic Reporter, December 19, 2003

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