I’m enjoying some holiday time in Michigan with family and friends, so rather than writing a post, I thought I’d share this Advent-y sestina. My 15 minutes of fame came when it was used as the Advent poem for my college paper—the first and probably last time for me to take up the whole front page of a periodical (though I did consistently tell the editor that my section was going to have no content but an enlarged photo of my face—surprisingly, he never went for that).
A pair of skates draw spiral shapes on ice;
a child glides. Her coat shocking as blood
is bright against the steely sky,
a sky that whispers snowflakes to the waiting
ground. The pale sun gives way to dusk
and the girl is called home by her mother.
In the doorframe stands the child’s mother.
She knows the lure (and lore) of ice
and cold and white and quiet dusk,
of wind-chapped lips that taste of blood.
But now she makes her place inside, waiting
for her own, watching the sky
for a sign, the slate-dark sky.
It was not so long ago her own mother
stood there in the doorway, waiting,
heat and light pouring out into the icy
night, a cameo in the color of blood
through closed eyelids. This is every dusk,
every still and bleak midwinter dusk,
when gazing up at a spangled sky
sparks a vision, a sensation, and the blood
rushes to remember a long-ago mother
in a setting minus snow and skates and ice:
fierce, tired, flushed, waiting.
She’d spent her short life waiting
for this perfect boy, born just at dusk
on an unforgiving night, as clear as ice,
and perhaps, there in the sky
that fabled star. Inside, the mother,
unaccustomed to so much blood,
is quiet. What if she knew the way the blood
would run down the cheek she strokes, waiting
for the dusky eyes to open? She is his mother,
and come that fearful day, at dusk,
she will stand beneath the angry sky
and cry tears bitter as ice.
Here and now, in snow and ice, in falling dusk
the world is waiting under a timeworn sky;
through centuries: child and mother, body and blood.