Renewal (Jeffrey Harrison poem) for the season of joy and melancholy

I often turn to poetry to open my heart to the day’s joy, and settle into the complicated harmonies of my mixed emotions. Today I read Jeffrey Harrison’s poem about renewal — perfect for the Easter/Passover season but with a twist! It made me smile, even though the full moon, the changing weather and my own personal rollercoaster often get me distracted from that moment of discovery, of awakening from my inner thoughts and seeing, really seeing, the people around me. No spoilers — just read it! A lovely reminder, this deceptively simple poem….

Renewal
by Jeffrey Harrison

At the Department of Motor Vehicles
to renew my driver’s license, I had to wait
two hours on one of those wooden benches
like pews in the church of Latter Day
Meaninglessness, where there is no
stained glass (no windows at all, in fact),
no incense other than stale cigarette smoke
emanating from the clothes of those around me,
and no sermon, just an automated female voice
calling numbers over a loudspeaker.
And one by one the members of our sorry
congregation shuffled meekly up to the pitted
altar to have our vision tested or to seek
redemption for whatever wrong turn we’d taken,
or pay indulgences, or else be turned away
as unworthy of piloting our own journey.
But when I paused to look around, using my numbered
ticket as a bookmark, it was as if the dim
fluorescent light had been transformed
to incandescence. The face of the Latino guy
in a ripped black sweatshirt glowed with health,
and I could tell that the sulking white girl
accompanied by her mother was brimming
with secret excitement to be getting her first license,
already speeding down the highway, alone,
with all the windows open, singing.

“Renewal” by Jeffrey Harrison from Into Daylight. © Tupelo Press, 2014.

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