Tuesday, December 20, 2016

 Advent Calendar, by Gjertrud Schnackenberg
Bethlehem in Germany,
Glitter on the sloping roofs,
Breadcrumbs on the windowsills,
Candles in the Christmas trees,
Hearths with pairs of empty shoes:
Panels of Nativity
Open paper scenes where doors
Open into other scenes,
Some recounted, some foretold.
Blizzard-sprinkled flakes of gold
Gleam from small interiors,
Picture-boxes in the stars
Open up like cupboard doors
In a cabinet Jesus built.

Southern German villagers,
Peasants in the mica frost,
See the comet streaming down,
Heavenly faces, each alone,
Faces lifted, startled, lost,
As if lightning lit the town.

Sitting in an upstairs window
Patiently the village scholar
Raises his nearsighted face,
Interrupted by the star.
Left and right his hands lie stricken
Useless on his heavy book.
When I lift the paper door
In the ceiling of his study
One canary-angel glimmers,
Flitting in the candelabra,
Peers and quizzes him: Rabbi,
What are the spheres surmounted by?
But his lips are motionless.
Child, what are you asking for?
Look, he gazes past the roofs,
Gazes where the bitter North,
Stretched across the empty place,
Opens door by door by door.

This is childhood's shrunken door.
When I touch the glittering crumbs,
When I cry to be admitted,
No one answers, no one comes.

And the tailor's needle flashes
In midair with thread pulled tight,
Stitching a baptismal gown.
But the gown, the seventh door,
Turns up an interior
Hidden from the tailor's eyes:
Baby presents like the boxes
Angels hold on streets and stairways,
Wooden soldier, wooden sword,
Chocolate coins in crinkled gold,
Hints of something bought and sold,
Hints of murder in the stars.
Baby's gown is sown with glitter
Spread across the tailor's lap.
Up above his painted ceiling
Baby mouse's skeleton
Crumbles in the mouse's trap.

Leaning from the cliff of heaven,
Indicating whom he weeps for,
Joseph lifts his lamp above
The infant like a candle-crown.
Let my fingers touch the silence
Where the infant's father cries.
Give me entrance to the village
From my childhood where the doorways
Open pictures in the skies.
But when all the doors are open,
No one sees that I've returned.
When I cry to be admitted,
No one answers, no one comes.
Clinging to my fingers only
Pain, like glitter bits adhering,
When I touch the shining crumbs.

Gjertrud Schnackenberg, "Advent Calendar" from Supernatural Love: Poems 1976-1992
Copyright © 2000 by Gjertrud Schnackenberg.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

A Small Story    
When Mrs. McCausland comes to mind
she slips through a small gap in oblivion
and walks down her front steps, in her hand
a small red velvet pillow she tucks
under the head of Old Jim Schreiber,
who is lying dead-drunk against the curb
of busy Market Street. Then she turns,
labors up the steps and is gone . . .

A small story. Or rather, the memory
of a story I heard as a boy. The witnesses
are not to be found, the steps lead nowhere,
the pillow has collapsed into a thread of dust . . .
Do the dead come back only to remind us
they, too, were once among the living,
and that the story we make of our lives
is a mystery of luminous, but uncertain moments,
a shuffle of images we carry toward sleep—
Mrs. McCausland with her velvet pillow,
Old Jim at peace—a story, like a small
clearing in the woods at night, seen
from the windows of a passing train. 

by Peter Everwine

Friday, April 15, 2016

Leave Me Hidden

I was having trouble deciding
which to watch: Night
of the Living Bloggers, or Attack of the Neck-Brace People.
In the end I just went for a walk. 

In the woods I stopped wondering why
of all trees
this one: my hand
pressed to fissures
and ridges of 

bark’s hugely magnified
fingerprint, forehead
resting against it
finally, feeling

a heartbeat, vast, silently
booming there deep in
my hidden leaves, blessed
motherworld, personal
underworld, thank you 

thank you. 
by Franz Wright.  Excerpted from F
Copyright © 2013 by Franz Wright.  
Alfred A. Knopf, a division of  Penguin Random House.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

CANDLES            by Constantine Cavafy, translated by David Coomler at
The days to come stand before us
Like a row of lighted candles --
Golden, warm, and lively.
The days gone by remain behind,
A sad line of extinguished candles,
The nearest still smoking;
Cold candles, melted and bent.
I don't want to look at them; their form saddens me,
And it saddens me to remember their first light.
I look ahead to my lit candles.
I don't want to turn back, to see and tremble:
How fast the dark line grows --
How fast the extinguished candles multiply.