Moments Before Dawn | Joan Leotta

Doing Their Part

In those moments before dawn
when there is just enough light 
to walk without tripping over driftwood,
I hunt for shells and watch lines of
gulls, sandpipers, terns, 
twitter and skitter, playing
in the waves and trying to distinguish
edibles from bits of sand and stone.

Suddenly, as light increases slightly,
they scramble into lines by species,
all facing the same spot on the horizon
where, if my weather app is 
to be believed, the sun will rise.
A reverent silence dominates.
They are still, so still. 
Not even gentle tickling of
rolling waves, 
elicits sound or movement.
I check my watch.
In a minute, sun is due to appear. 

Indeed, sun rises up on time.
Celebrating sun’s successful leap 
over the horizon line, a gull screeches.
Strutting about, satisfied  
they’ve done their part, all the birds
skitter, twitter, forage now with 
confidence, secure in the knowledge, 
that indeed it was their reverent silence 
that facilitated sunrise.

I tip my beach hat to the nearest bird, 
in thanks and continue, now in light,
my search for shells.

Shadow’s Twin Nature

From behind, 
my shadow reaches out
to darken, weigh down,  or sharpen

Shadows are but a gradation of gray,
a place between dark and light
layered with the wisdom of experience.

In the golden light of afternoon 
shadows stretch far ahead of us
with ideas larger than ourselves, 

inspiration for futures greater than our present.
Going ahead, they beckon us to follow, 
stepping lively like the escaped shadow of peter pan.

On cloudy days, I miss my shadow 
but I know she is attached
for I myself have sewn her to my heels.

Having taken her twin essence into myself,
I just have to remember to feed the lively one,
laugh off the one trying to drag me behind—


How Should We Pray for the Orphans?

As winds of war rip
leaves of contentment
from the Ethiopian tree of life,
mothers huddle with their children
whispering words of comfort.
singing soft songs of hope 
while fathers bar the doors,
feed the children 
though not themselves. 

But in the orphanage, Matron can
hold only two or three on her lap.
She asks the older ones to keep 
their arms around the 
shoulders of the youngest.
She rarely can scavenge enough
to fill all the tiny bellies.
These efforts do not quell the tears
the shaking, the fears of all these.
There is no one to bar the door.
What will happen
when soldiers’ boots tramp
through the streets? 
When gunshots replace birdsong?
When the smoke of guns
disguises the sun itself?
When the children now 
in mothers’ arms find 
themselves alone and pour 
like a rain of tears into 
that tiny orphanage?
Can more fit on matron’s lap?
I hope my prayer can leap
across time and space
and place a hedge 
around them all.
Comfort, feed, protect.
Is this how we should pray?

©2021 Joan Leotta
All rights reserved


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