God of the gathering

How often have I desired to gather your children together

as a hen gathers her brood under her wings…

Matthew 13:37

Of course I love the days when they come back.
When dark drive floods with headlights,
tired travelers droop to baggage claim
and I leap up to greet them
bright-eyed, arms as wide as grin.
Soft tears springing right behind: You’re home!
I reach to pull them near and laugh
a muffled welcome into collars,
fall into the hug I’ve held in dreams,
remembering panged when phone would ring
from far away, quick update between worlds
and then goodbye, talk soon, take care –
empty that gnaws and grows
each time they leave.

When they were young, my wings
arched wide enough to hold them,
stretch around their needs, protect, provide,
make home.
But then they grew. I wanted
them to scurry off and run into the world
just as I hoped. And yet 
I never thought they’d drift so far.

Years went by when they did not return,
work or duty called, and travel hassles
at the holidays. I know
it’s life, I understand.
Still, one big brood under my roof is best:
Clucking, ruffling feathers (family after all)
the way I always dream.
Warmth of close reminding
love resides in flesh and bone.

Gathering is work. You’d never guess
the squeezing of the schedule
to make time and space for cooking, cleaning, 
organizing and awaiting, readying return.
And stretching of the heart, too 
wide enough to let back in.

Last night as I tucked blankets
into corners, smoothed the sheets for
now-guests in their childhood beds,
I thought of birds who pluck their feathers
to line soft their babies’ nest.
Always it is myself I give
to draw them home,
my loves that wander wide
then circle back to tell me
wisdom of the world
I’ve always known.

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