blackbird online journal spring 2002 vol.1 no. 1




1. Christmas Eve

On the mantel, this silent scene, motionless
amid the heat expelled by our hearth’s open

cave. Fire’s chiaroscuro spit & clamor
strikes the figures’ porcelain robes where

they hang in folds, crevice of throat & eye
sunken black. The trough’s straw-sculpted

maw fills with dark, empty until midnight.
This créche should embody beginnings,

holy birth, but the darkness to come
inhabits it too thoroughly. See how it slips

into the stable—the cattle low & stamp
the stalls, trapped by massing smoke. Their

hooves paw kilned dirt. Only one man need
notice, need lift the bolt & slide it free:

let them nose their way out, break for safety.

2. The Adoration

whether on your knees or squatting

to worship is to labor, as any saint knows

in water or walking

let love pour forth from you, wetting both your socks

then rest & push again

faith is like that, one step forward, one step back

keep your chin down

(that which is distant is all that is worth seeing)

whether on your side, your back

the posture of adoration is the posture of suffering

3. The Nativity

Snow swirls the night air like a nebula
& already he is lost, retiring to grottoed barn.

He tosses on his makeshift bed
before rising for work, worried about taxes
unpaid, the donkey to be fed, & when
he’ll get a decent night’s rest.

He has seen enough of open sky & stars.

He wants the splintered criss-cross of beams,
material he can hew according to desire,
wants to lift his thumb to her teeth
& have her tweeze each wood sliver free.

The storm-fall sifts about, each starred flake
melting clear & cold on the tongue as a wish.

4. The Epiphany

A thin music’s strain accompanies the infant’s every breath.

The branchings of his lungs stiffen, heavy as tree limbs
outside, fragile bouquets of twig piled thick with old snow.

Censer-like, the vaporizer offers up its menthol, its mist.

I have known nothing so well as I know this wet face,
its veins tracked like bird’s feet across earth’s white crust.

5. Candlemas

Knead loaves of bread with milk & holy
water to place beneath spring’s first furrow.

Plant garden seeds in an egg-carton. Wait.

Warm them on the kitchen counter—
green shoots flicker on soil’s black lake.

Sweep the floors with salt water. Batter &

pour a dinner of pancakes, round gold disks.
Kindle soft candles, beeswaxed stars,

in every window. This is how light must enter

our world: sharp & bright as a sword, soul-
piercing suns blister-cupped by a woman’s

corded arms, consuming her like a wick. 

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