by Jo Balistreri

Ancient Ritual

Dad, in his long blue robe
and thinning steel-gray hair
enters the spotless kitchen
in worn-slippered feet.
Shadowed dawn
announces its presence,
releases the closed petals
of sleep to the templed rhythm
of a new day.
Dad carefully opens the cupboard,
reverently holds a cherry blossom
plate. Setting the breakfast table
he gently places each porcelain dish
of boyhood, creates a spring
garden at each setting, forever green,
its branched blooms reaching
toward light.
A Buddhist monk, he walks
within his life treading slow measured steps,
gives attention to each detail
as if it were new.
He pours the brewed tea,
watches the waterfall pool
in the bone-thin cups, follows the steam
as it drifts upward like incense.

I smile to myself--am silent, aware
of this ancient rite of morning, watch
him walk to the draped window
to pull open the day. For a moment,
he will stand enfolded in mountain sun,
before he turns to me and says,
“Isn’t it fine.”

-originally appeared in Bellowing Ark