My Cart 


Let It Begin with Me
Mary Jo Balistreri


The air hummed with promise—unexpected
in those troubled times. Hot cider spiced
its way through the crowded room
and tins of homemade cookies sparkled
in the hands of children.

The scent of cut pine met
the draft of ozoned cold each time
the basement door swung open
into the small candlelit church.

Toward the end of Mass, the young priest asked
for a volunteer to lead us in a last song.
No one moved. Weary of such efforts,
our pockets and faith were on empty.
Finally, a boy of ten walked to the altar
and began singing Let there be peace on earth . . .
His high-pitched voice, unsteady at first, grew
into the strength of the music while we grew
into his.

One by one we stood, reaching out to strangers,
and when the last note ended, we remainded still.

Forty years later, I watch white flakes spark
the cobalt sky and the memory of that long ago
song flickers and catches fire. Looking out into the glow
of stars, the pillowed accumulation,
I hear the peace song weave through the white
screen of night, the voice of the child,
and despite the weight of the snow-heavy world,
I remember—let it begin with me.

© by Mary Jo Balistreri.
Used with the author’s permission.

Mary Jo Balistreri was a concert pianist for most of her life, but in 2005 she began writing poetry after the death of her seven-year-old grandson. Poetry gradually helped her transform her grief into something resembling acceptance. Mary Jo’s award-winning work is widely published and she is the author of four collections: Still, gathering the harvest, Best Brothers, and Joy in the Morning. In 2014, Mary Jo began writing haiku and haibun and, since then, has turned almost entirely to Japanese forms. Mary Jo lives in Wisconsin; learn more about her at






Post New Comment:
Carol Janc:
What an absolute perfect little story! CJanc
Posted 11/16/2011 02:46 PM
Exquisitely poignant and touching all the senses with warmth and hope - Thank you, Mary Jo!
Posted 11/15/2011 04:06 PM
Abigail Juhlmann:
This was absolutely beautiful. The words came to life before me and still linger now. I feel them this room and inside me.
Posted 11/13/2011 01:49 PM
Linda Lee (Konichek):
Music flows through Mary Jo's poetry, as it does through her! I am always uplifted by her skill with details and images that stay in my mind. A perfect way to start thinking about what really matters at this time of year!
Posted 11/12/2011 10:38 PM
Patt Clark:
As I read the poem, I felt as though I were floating on the tide. The images of air humming with promise and the scent of cut pine fill my own air space. Only we can make a difference. Thanks, Mary Jo!
Posted 11/12/2011 02:27 PM
With every word, I am transported to a whole new world. The words fade and I am there. I feel the cold, sharp wind, smell the fresh pine, taste the cinnamon in the cider, hear that wobbly little voice and feel the heavy, warm blanket of peace surround me. You are soooo gifted!!!!
Posted 11/11/2011 06:08 PM
Jo, I'm so glad the world gets to see this poem today. This is just one of those poems that the world truly needs. My favorite part: I watch white flakes spark the cobalt sky and the memory of that long ago song flickers and catches fire.
Posted 11/11/2011 01:44 PM
Donna Pflueger:
Oh, Jo! Your line that ends with "...unsteady at first, grew into the strength of the music while we grew into his..." is so wonderfully conveyed, it is almost physical. I will carry your poem with me through this holiday season and I thank you for this unexpected gift.
Posted 11/11/2011 01:18 PM
He said "a little child will lead us", and he does again in this beautiful poem of faith -. Thank you, Jo, for the reminder, in these difficult days, to "believe"... God bless. Judy
Posted 11/11/2011 12:08 PM
Janet Leahy:
You set the scene beautifully as your poem unfolds, I can hear the music.
Posted 11/11/2011 10:05 AM
Gail Goepfert:
Jo, between your lovely words and the stunningly beautiful depiction of the moment and Jayne's words about our times and the holidays we face, I am certainly given pause to reflect. Thank you!
Posted 11/11/2011 08:48 AM
Kay Sanders:
The sum of this poem is much greater than its parts--strong and beautiful as those parts are. Thank you, Jo.
Posted 11/11/2011 07:23 AM

Contents of this web site and all original text and images therein are copyright © by Your Daily Poem. All rights reserved.
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Purchasing books through any poet's Amazon links helps to support Your Daily Poem.
The material on this site may not be copied, reproduced, downloaded, distributed, transmitted, stored, altered, adapted,
or otherwise used in any way without the express written permission of the owner.