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Significant Illustrations of Return


After the smell of hotdogs on the Fourth day of July

and spark-shooting fountains cause familial glee,

it gets too hot to wear flip-flops. But school starts

anyway. The pools close, and the pumpkins wear


silly faces (some with paper ears like the one Paul

designed). The air smells heavy with the wetness of

fallen leaves or exciting, when raked piles crackle

and burn. We pop tom-turkey into the oven, sing about


brave Pilgrims. The house smells like yams.

After the tree goes up, and the cat pulls tinsel down,

the crèche holds the Jesus-Baby and Advent-candles

glow, we trade Valentine cards. The snow blows in


(a bit later than expected) with seep snow-drifts

reaching the roof of the falling-down tobacco

shed. Cherry blossoms, azaleas come forth,

and the wind blows pollen all over the car.


The sky has grown dark and the firmament shaken.

We place Jesus’ body in a borrowed tomb

then wait together for three days. Each blossom

on the flowering dogwood forms its symbolic cross.


After Resurrection, a butterfly lingers close to

my face. We smile. We smell the delicate scent of

many roses. Then “Oh, say [what] can [we] see”

by the light of a summer dawn or any twilight’s


hot gleaming? We celebrate the yearly return

of our American birthday. Lady Liberty

waves the flag. And while an on-going stream of

hungry, “wretched refuse,” nears our southernmost


rampart, we shoot our (illegal) pop-bottle

rockets, wage war on the aliens.


This poem is cross-posted on Poets for Peace


How do we welcome home our lost brothers and sisters? By running out to them, embracing them, and kissing them. By clothing them with the best clothes we have and making them our honored guests. By offering them the best food and inviting friends and family for a party. And, most important of all, by not asking for excuses or explanations, only showing our immense joy that they are with us again. (See Luke 15:20-24).

That is being perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect. It is forgiving from the heart without a trace of self-righteousness, recrimination, or even curiosity. The past is wiped out. What counts is the here and now, where all that fills our hearts is gratitude for the homecoming of our brothers and sisters.