“Guest House” by Jelaluddin Rumi

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

– Jelaluddin Rumi,
Translation from The Essential Rumi by Coleman Barks

“A Christmas Poem” by Robert Bly

Christmas is a place, like Jackson Hole, where we all
agree
To meet once a year. It has water, and grass for
horses;
All the fur traders can come in. We visited the place
As children, but we never heard the good stories.

Those stories only get told in the big tents, late
At night, when a trapper who has been caught
In his own trap, held down in icy water, talks; and a
man
With a ponytail and a limp comes in from the edge of
the fire.

As children, we knew there was more to it—
Why some men got drunk on Christmas Eve
Wasn’t explained, nor why we were so often
Near tears nor why the stars came down so close,

Why so much was lost. Those men and women
Who had died in wars started by others,
Did they come that night? Is that why the Christmas
tree
Trembled just before we opened the presents?

There was something about angels. Angels we
Have heard on high Sweetly singing o’er
The plain
. The angels were certain. But we could not
Be certain whether our family was worthy tonight.

“A Christmas Poem” by Robert Bly from Morning Poems. © Harper Collins.

“The Altar” by Charles Simic

The plastic statue of the Virgin
On top of a bedroom dresser
With a blackened mirror
From a bad-dream grooming salon.
Two pebbles from the grave of a rock star,
A small, grinning windup monkey,
A bronze Egyptian coin
And a red movie-ticket stub.

A splotch of sunlight on the framed
Communion photograph of a boy
With the eyes of someone
Who will drown in a lake real soon.

An altar dignifying the god of chance.
What is beautiful, it cautions,
Is found accidentally and not sought after.
What is beautiful is easily lost.

“The Altar,” by Charles Simic from Night Picnic (Harcourt).

“The Methodist and his Method” by Chad Sweeney

Underground in the cemetery
my grandfather preaches to the other corpses.
They clap inside their boxes

nicely arranged in Sunday clothes
in long rows like pews.
His words stir hope

that conditions may change.
Each man has been given his row boat,
he says,

to lie back in and watch the sky
braiding and unbraiding its light.
No one is safer than we are.

“The Methodist and his Method” by Chad Sweeney from Parable of Hide and Seek. © Alice James Books, 2010.

“Oil & Steel” by Henri Cole

My father lived in a dirty-dish mausoleum,
watching a portable black-and-white television,
reading the Encyclopaedia Britannica,
which he preferred to Modern Fiction.
One by one, his schnauzers died of liver disease,
except the one that guarded his corpse
found holding a tumbler of Bushmills.
“Dead is dead,” he would say, an antipreacher.
I took a plaid shirt from the bedroom closet
And some motor oil—my inheritance.
Once I saw him weep in a courtroom—
neglected, needing nursing—this man who never showed
me much affection but gave me a knack
for solitude, which has been mostly useful.

“Oil & Steel” by Henri Cole from Pierce the Skin. © Farrar Straus & Giroux, 2010.