Category Archives: poetry

The moment when Before turned into After.

When I began blogging I read Maria’s blog which featured a poem a day taken from a book in her local public library. She always included a painting to go with the poem. After only two years the project ended abruptly, and even the queries from faithful readers in the comments stopped five years ago. I had saved many, many poems from her offerings, and here I am sharing/copying one as an echo of her post for December 25, 2010, painting still attached. Thank you, Maria, wherever you are! I know you are with God.

BC: AD

This was the moment when Before
Turned into After, and the future’s
Uninvented timekeepers presented arms.

This was the moment when nothing
Happened. Only dull peace
Sprawled boringly over the earth.

This was the moment when even energetic Romans
Could find nothing better to do
Than counting heads in remote provinces.

And this was the moment
When a few farm workers and three
Members of an obscure Persian sect

Walked haphazard by starlight straight
Into the kingdom of heaven.

~ U. A. Fanthorpe (1929-2009), English poet

The Holy Family with Angels by Rembrandt van Rijn, 1606-1669

When they are quite dressed.

I no longer decorate a big cut tree in the house, with its spicy needles scenting the room. But I love this poem still; parts of it apply very nicely to a tree I bought this year (before the live conifer I mentioned a couple of days ago), a little tree for sure, only two feet high, and bare-branched. I will wait to show you either of my current trees, until I can decorate them with versions of spangles and rings.

little tree
little silent Christmas tree
you are so little
you are more like a flower

who found you in the green forest
and were you very sorry to come away?
see i will comfort you
because you smell so sweetly

i will kiss your cool bark
and hug you safe and tight
just as your mother would,
only don’t be afraid

look the spangles
that sleep all the year in a dark box
dreaming of being taken out and allowed to shine,
the balls the chains red and gold the fluffy threads,

put up your little arms
and i’ll give them all to you to hold
every finger shall have its ring
and there won’t be a single place dark or unhappy

then when you’re quite dressed
you’ll stand in the window for everyone to see
and how they’ll stare!
oh but you’ll be very proud

and my little sister and i will take hands
and looking up at our beautiful tree
we’ll dance and sing
“Noel Noel”

–e.e. cummings

P1030175
tree from the past

He paints in fairy lines.

JACK FROST

The door was shut, as doors should be,
Before you went to bed last night;
Yet Jack Frost has got in, you see,
And left your window silver white.

He must have waited till you slept;
And not a single word he spoke,
But penciled o’er the panes and crept
Away again before you woke.

And now you cannot see the hills
Nor fields that stretch beyond the lane;
But there are fairer things than these
His fingers traced on every pane.

Rocks and castles towering high;
Hills and dales, and streams and fields;
And knights in armor riding by,
With nodding plumes and shining shields.

And here are little boats, and there
Big ships with sails spread to the breeze;
And yonder, palm trees waving fair
On islands set in silver seas,

And butterflies with gauzy wings;
And herds of cows and flocks of sheep;
And fruit and flowers and all the things
You see when you are sound asleep.

For, creeping softly underneath
The door when all the lights are out,
Jack Frost takes every breath you breathe,
And knows the things you think about.

He paints them on the window-pane
In fairy lines with frozen steam;
And when you wake you see again
The lovely things you saw in dream.

~ Gabriel Setoun (1861-1930)

His mirror, sister, Bride.

Malcolm Guite has given us a rich treasury in the poetry anthology he assembled, Waiting on the Word: A Poem a Day for Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany. For each poem he writes what he calls a “reflective essay,” and they are wonderfully enlightening for someone like me whose education in poetry is minimal.

I was browsing the paperback last night just before falling asleep, and when I read this poem by Christina Rossetti I got the idea to post it here on its eponymous day — but I lost that thought all together with consciousness. Guite has put it on his blog on the proper day, where you can hear him read it if you like. But to read his thoughts you’ll have to get the book itself.

For the Orthodox, what we call the Nativity Fast does not begin on a certain day of the week approximately four weeks before the Feast of the Nativity of Christ, but always on November 15, making it 40 days long. It’s consistent, but wouldn’t make a tidy title for a poem!

ADVENT SUNDAY

BEHOLD, the Bridegroom cometh: go ye out
With lighted lamps and garlands round about
To meet Him in a rapture with a shout.

It may be at the midnight, black as pitch,
Earth shall cast up her poor, cast up her rich.

It may be at the crowing of the cock
Earth shall upheave her depth, uproot her rock.

For lo, the Bridegroom fetcheth home the Bride:
His Hands are Hands she knows, she knows His Side.

Like pure Rebekah at the appointed place,
Veiled, she unveils her face to meet His Face.

Like great Queen Esther in her triumphing,
She triumphs in the Presence of her King.

His Eyes are as a Dove’s, and she’s Dove-eyed;
He knows His lovely mirror, sister, Bride.

He speaks with Dove-voice of exceeding love,
And she with love-voice of an answering Dove.

Behold, the Bridegroom cometh: go we out
With lamps ablaze and garlands round about
To meet Him in a rapture with a shout.

-Christina Rossetti