Friday, December 31, 2010


This was the year that started outside of Vegas. It’s not as glam as it sounds. I like to hike in the desert.

This was the year I started to build a walkway out of individual stones then quit halfway and questioned the direction it was going. I’ll continue building it someday. I still have a sense of direction and still have the stones to finish what I started.

Some of our modern machines died this past year and needed to be replaced but in the rush of daily life I was too busy to see the metaphor. Most days I’ll take clean clothes over epiphanies.

I finally got the chance to visit the castles where my long-lost ancestors learned masonry, chivalry and fighting. It’s a learned thing, listening to stone.

This was the year that the tomatoes did poorly. The roses, empathetic, didn’t do much better.

This was the first year that I wrote every day, built a blog and some stronger writing habits. It’s fun seeing your name in print next to others who are pretty good.

I got to spend two days with Kay Ryan and listened carefully to everything she said. Here’s a summary: speak with your own voice or not at all.

I picked up the banjo then put it down and wondered what the hell was I thinking.

My prayers resumed then stopped then started again. It’s a fine thing the teacher isn’t grading for punctuation.

I couldn’t stop marching, for religious tolerance, for GLBT rights, for battered families, and in the footsteps of St. Patrick. Still no shortage of snakes in this world but they seem to be getting better at evasion.

This was the year I caught glimpses of the man my son is becoming and they almost always filled me with joy.

With every passing year I’ve learned of more passings and reminders of stories that don’t get told until we’re gone. I felt the triumph of someone who got a second chance and her stories are just starting to form.

You might have caught my self-absorbed tone over the solstice. Only catharsis, maybe caused by the dark days and rapidly rising river. But the days are already getting longer, we’re survived floods before and I live on higher ground than I used to.

La vita e bella - life is good. I’ll see you in 2011.

~ J. D. M.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Adieu, December

Are we finished yet? Seriously, I can't be happier that this year and this month are coming to a well-deserved end. Too many highlights to count (people, places and a Pushcart nomination) and a few speed bumps (correction: collisions) to remind us we're mortal (seriously, we already knew and didn't need any reminders). The only thing left to do is bid adieu and move forward. Read on...

Even in a good year this is an insane month
cursed by short days
tall expectations
and scenic views of redemption

First was the hate crime that lit up cable news
followed by marches and vigils
long talks about recovery
the grueling work of social justice

Then reminders of how shopping postponed is shopping hell
once behind you can never catch up
still I clung to my double standard
I reserve the right to play Santa for others
as for me, to quote Elmo:
all I want for Christmas is you

Just before we donned our almost gay apparel
there were no twelve days of Christmas
for us lapsed pagans

Only one long day in the ER
five more in acute care
six more in a tenaciously joyful rehab center
Christmas dinner on paper plates
and the greatest gift ever

I’ve never known a December like this
and wish to never see one like it

As much as I’ve enjoyed the joys of 2010
there is no hesitation in bidding adieu, December
until we meet again

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sunday Morning

Botti on the stereo
brewing Costa Rican
Sunday has the kindest paper
a break in the December rain
new fungi out back
brief visit by the Bears
mail piling up
distant Advent memories
all the trouble in the world pauses

she says procrastination
I say you say that like it’s a bad thing
everything that should be done
can be done

Thursday, December 9, 2010


Even before the steam wafted away
before the sodden carpets pulled
and the charred rubbish hauled off
before the painful news got out
that this was no mistake

The offers arrived
for builders, rugs and paint
money, flowers and food
stronger light on darker days

Through gentle acts of grace we learned
their needs are small
these colleagues and friends

The beauty of their souls revealed
the most important things they know
are friendship, faith and time

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Never To Be Silent

Even I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.
- Elie Wiesel

Even I swore
when I heard about the firebomb
tossed into the Mosque
near the street where I live

My vows are the opposite
of some religious orders:
never to be silent
in calamitous times

Whenever and wherever human beings
endure suffering and humiliation
I will take notice
and when the times demand it
I will act

Whether it’s a hate crime
or a homecoming game
we must always take sides
so I’m friending you now
from this moment on

The time for neutrality has passed
since neutrality only helps the oppressor
never the victim

Silence only encourages the tormentor
who loses all resolve
when the chords of truth sound clear

Silence never encourages the tormented
so I’m done being silent
and even if I have to swear
I’m taking your side

~ J. D. Mackenzie

[Last week, the mosque in our little college town was firebombed. We expect that those responsible will eventually be caught and tried. Meanwhile, the community response has been overwhelmingly positive. A real effort is being made to better understand our differences and to work toward a more civilized world.]