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Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven…
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.  ~Matt. 5:3-5

1. Indian Summer

We heard rumors of razors in apples
and needle holes in wrappers.

But, we peeled a trillion sweetmeats
hungrily, as a three alarm fire
gnawed the San Fernando Valley hills

on Halloween.  The smoke

tumbled right
into nearby Simi Valley where rich people lived
in stucco split levels
just below the old Manson Family caves.

We knew, where there’s smoke
there’s snakes—
rattlers, copperheads and more settling over Simi

like the black billows.
You just can’t tell where

the wind blows, I guess. 

2. Trick or Treat

That year, we were homespun
pirates or gypsies
draped in fool’s gold.

We were cheap sheet-ghosts—
our pillowcases nearly empty for taking
in the skyline.  Flames

fanned the air in praise.
They hustled—made a halo of those sharp licks—
while buckling brush clapped

and free candy paled
when free candy was everything to us.

We lay in bed before they snuffed the fire—

3.  Lights Out

we lay open
armed in the relative dark,
our bellies gnashing and moaning
for food, our weak teeth chewing one last
Tootsie pop or Skittle.

We needed more
jaw breaking treats to last like this
mean season gone gracious. 

We needed every red-engine knell to slumber
and a neighborhood cease-fire

and then we could wake stoked
to survive—stretch and run

into the All Saints Day dawn.


(originally published in Relief: a Quarterly of Christian Expression, Summer 2009)

God is the perfect poet. 

~Robert Browning