Poetry by
Elaine McDermott
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Oh, Bethlehem


A child is born in Bethlehem.
The hills resound
with a heavenly chorus,
“Glory to God in the Highest.”


guarding their flocks,
are filled with wonder
as the fields are flooded
in celestial light.


The star in the East
grows brighter,
igniting the midnight sky,
leading the Magi
to the newborn king.


In a stable in Bethlehem,
Joseph smiles at Jesus
lying on his bed of straw
and whispers to Mary,
“He has the hands
of a carpenter.”

Grandpa’s Miracles


He hurried me to the back porch
that cold Christmas morning
to show me the water in the bucket
frozen to ice. In the warmth
of the kitchen fire,
we sat at the oak wood table.
He laced my thick chicory coffee
with sweet condensed milk.
I sipped the still bitter drink
and dunked hot French bread crust
while Grandpa molded the dough
into a circle of chicks.
It was then that I noticed
his thin arms, the blue shadows
that deepened beneath his crinkled eyes.


Before the ice had melted
in the bucket,
the priest was called.
I never knew
if the changing of water to ice,
bread to life, was to prepare me
for the ceremony
the priest performed
with bread and wine.

Kumquats in Winter


Traveling through scattered towns
ending again at a churchyard
in Monticello, I grow weary
watching spotted cows
fold into russet mounds,
and I curse the steel-grey clouds.


As I pass the old dairy farm,
the sagging loft
of the oaken barn
staggers beneath
the metallic shadow
of a silver water tower.


I remember
when we buried Daddy
on the land that the drought
had seared to sand,
you rode beside me
and spoke of a kinder God.


Trailing the autumn wind,
the wetwood scent
of promised rain
blends with freshly baled hay,
stirring memories of green peanuts,


of rain frogs and cricket songs,
smokehouses and wooden churns,
golden syrup in copper pans,
of strawberries in spring,
and kumquats in winter.

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