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Joseph Mills


You can chart the children’s growth over the years
in the rise and spread of ornaments up the tree.
As toddlers, they create a skirt of decorations.
A single branch might have a half dozen bulbs
clinking together.  Most are haphazardly secured,
so they periodically fall, bouncing and breaking
on the floor, like a John Cage holiday soundtrack.
As arm spans increase, balls cover more boughs,
and the children begin to have favorite pieces,
ones they make a point of finding a “good place” for.
And then one year, you realize that they understand
the larger whole, that they are striving for balance,
the dark spaces to try to fill them with color and light.


From This Miraculous Turning (Press 53, 2014).
Used with the author’s permission.


Joseph Mills is a faculty member at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, where he holds the Susan Burress Wall Distinguished Professorship in the Humanities. Joe’s published work includes six volumes of poetry, and four nonfiction books. He also writes a column called “String Figures” for ChangeSeven Magazine in which he details his thoughts about trying to learn piano in middle-age. Learn more about Joe at


Post New Comment:
Lori Levy:
Like the idea of filling the "dark spaces" with "color and light."
Posted 12/15/2015 12:42 AM
Enjoyed your lovely poem, thanks.
Posted 12/14/2015 05:43 PM
Marilyn L Taylor:
Very nice. Well done.
Posted 12/14/2015 09:25 AM
Fine Christmas poem.
Posted 12/14/2015 08:42 AM
so nice
Posted 12/14/2015 08:39 AM
Beautiful and so true!
Posted 12/14/2015 07:50 AM
lovely and true...and I can't do bar chords either!
Posted 12/14/2015 07:18 AM

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