One snowy winter night a poet walked
through the crunchy ice down the old laneway.
He had heard the voice of God in his day,
and believed this deity spoke and talked
with those who composed song and word, the joys
of the realms above. Yet, this cold evening
he heard nothing, knew no glorious ring,
and his melancholy, dismal alloy.
No combination of note and wisdom
could alleviate his inner torment
from decay to risen hope in this time.
There were decorations of the season,
but they did not raise his spirits; lament
was the only note on his tongue, not rhyme.
Strumming his guitar, he sang of Moss—girl
down the road that he imagined was saint
as she was still young, with long dark hair plaited
as if in a Renaissance painting, pearl.
Her purity was lovely as her skin,
freshwater-pale with such lustrous
lines that local others were covetous.
Singing the Christmas story of her kin,
now shepherds of the street with their niche,
to denote a few of those who blithe cared
to visit her Mary under the eaves.
Where she sat on the porch, with smoky titch
of a cigarette in her hand, she fared
as a child ’neath a tree of tattered leaves.
Yet one tree in her mind stood against blue
frosty sky, and the stain of its glass-like
open air—with a church, its streaming light
down the road, door swung open, misconstrued
altar call that one could see to the cross.
Somehow the janitor had forgotten
to lock the door: Virgin’s new begotten
babe Jesus was bright visible to Moss.
She languished there that she was invited
to heaven, where icons forever lived,
and her birth father’s petty thievery
was overlooked, by someone short-sighted;
the scooped chocolate mint ice cream was craved
by her mother, who scolded peevishly.
Moss hung her head in shame, the church door swung
shut in disbelief, that any pure would
enter its fold, as sheep to a shepherd.
The call had mercy-come. The bells had rung.
Her mother and father must have then made
her exempt to salvation. If only
this combination—bright-eyed love, souly
stealth-given to any eager patched-faith
passerby as a form of last bitter
penance to sit on the stoop, eventide
and the chastened violet time of the end—
made the people’s street poet a writer:
who stared vacantly blue until he sighed,
and began again to compose his God-send.
When all earth reposed, and the world languished
in silence—there was a hush, and snow fell
on evergreens, crystal sparkles would tell
of how both hope and joy were long banished.
Here were hearkened to this abandoned place
the angels of shining realms staccato,
and Gloria, they sang as piccolo—
result be farmer’s fields of snowy lace.
Onlookers down below removed their hats,
and scratched their heads: they had not before seen
such things. Celestial glorious song
streamed down, and gentle words of heaven last
could not help but render the shepherds’ green
pastures a wider thoroughfare along.
Beneath this star-filled night, and ever-near,
drew close to straw manger of a stable,
the shepherds of rustic lowly hovel
where, dim in shadows, poverty their tears.
Here, they gathered dressed in shepherd’s rough cloaks,
and baby’s song was new and innocent:
to their wounds, cloth and cooling liniment,
the crux of restoring, to their cries; smoke
rose from the fire. They held their hands to warmth,
they grinned from ear to ear, now excited—
life and love had sounded their calling to the poor.
Witnesses entered new sacred re-birth,
from the child Emmanuel, once blighted
under an oppression to dusty floor.
Here, one babe anew would enter this light
pronouncing browned ragamuffins worthy
of redemption, despite faces swarthy.
Abundant harvest trumped the dark earth’s blight.
One trumpet-shaped flower would sound its horn,
and with its solo shape the hearts accrued
of women from flagrant to wanting true,
of men from lust to cherishing pure morn ...
White curtains in the window were hung bright,
and Moss had a ring on her finger shine.
The subtle diamond spoke of a poet
who lived down the street, was walking one night—
the winter moon shone through the needled pine,
Christmas Eve, when presents occupied most.
Far in the East, they travelled through the night—
Magi who followed the star to the child—
astronomers who were learned men, mild
was the kingdom they sought by this pure light.
In regal clothing of kings, they passed on
through town and country, all in desert line,
their gifts to present, gold and perfume fine:
frankincense and myrrh to the Virgin’s son.
What would they give, beyond the holy grail?
Could wise men so wealthy now give their hearts?
What would be their ebony life’s true call?
Was there a king, who, without gifts, looked frail;
and usually his donkey drew a cart.
With their off’ring he triumphed o’er the fall.
Precious oil streaming down at such a thing!
His radiant face to be found by men:
amid the turmoil of the furthest sin
and farthest country’s scarlet heart, beating.
Studying the dark sky would lead them on
through forest and over river, through field;
he was a truly long awaited child,
the ancient Holy Scriptures from of old
predicted it, had prophesied a King.
This new King would be a King over all,
his reign would extend to the far countries,
to the ends of the earth, where children sing
of his love, women—lullaby, cradle—
and men at this great act of mercy, weep.
Through thicket and thorn, men will seek him still,
dressed in all garments, rich, and poor, comely
child-king with a voice that calls out, lovely
on the mountains, deep and rich in the hills,
and in the valleys like the smoothing wind,
blowing the cypress here and there, soothing
our distress: coming to earth, repealing
our sentence from a curse, and rescinding
the Jewish Law for our sakes, our old chains
that would convict us, enemy seers
instead of friends. Loss of that enmity
allows us to behold his face and reign,
adopt his patterns, running like the deer,
falling rain into the desert. Glory!
Like myrrh in your being, Emmanuel,
you are being accustomed to kind love,
that you are Christ-child from the realms above;
those who adore you carry your sandals.
Those who are trained in classical arts paint
you in the halls of palaces of earth;
you reside also in the homes of dirt—
for there, joy—laughter is heard of the saints.
Here now, you have holiness ascended,
you have risen into all earth’s glories,
you have taken our evil by surprise.
From shining Jacob’s Staircase descended,
while the hero of our children’s stories,
the feature of our aching thoughts, surmise.
Like frankincense, you are prepared for life
and for death, you are entombed and adorned
with lilies around your neck, and the horn
of plenty accompanies us: believe
that I who was protected and kept safe
will also keep you. In the depths of care,
you are fragrant bathed, dried in my long hair,
also prepared as a warrior for strife.
You next—loudly sound my trumpet of war—
for you are armed as if by fine silver;
the very eyes of Christ can see in you.
His retinas of blue tansy are aware
that his life in you will be a river;
living water that refreshes your soul.
Like gold, you are costly and of value,
for eternity, you are accepted
as one—by my great wealth—now provided
for, and my kingdom of heaven, to sue
for divorce the old realms of want and fear:
the curse on humankind has now been stayed.
Divided in mind between plenty’s face,
and water and blood, there is a thorn-pierced
Saviour who shed his cloak for this dark world:
his crimson blood poured out, his love now streamed
unrestricted, censored, too explicit—
in purity, a wild lily, a pearl,
too stricken on the cross of Calvary,
and in his dark, obscene death, complicit.
Moss looked up from the altar where she knelt,
the shepherd had opened the door again
to the sanctuary, leaving Satan,
as this Jesus in his church was heart-felt.
The devil sat on the dusty doormat,
to be rejected, as some called Jesus
to turn water into wine, for reasons
unknown, to fill the copper wedding vat;
and to walk on water, to be stable,
to wax eloquent in verse—the poet
concluded now—in pen, with a flourish
on eloquent parchment on the table.
Here was where winsome bride of Christ lowered
her sea-eyes, and held out her hands, nourished.
The poet opened his scroll, this favourite,
he read again of how he had been saved
from the fire of purification, slave
to sin, he had needed a pure Saviour.
His spirit had rejoiced that Moss was now
as beautiful as the Virgin Mary,
out beneath the night where she was starry—
she twirled under the snowflakes falling down.
The church kept Moss beneath their feathered wings,
taught her how to practice lent and goodness,
how to be a Christian wife with hands out—
she worshipped at the Saviour’s feet,
a woman with her head covered, modest.
The poet reading, her husband, had clout.
The steaming world would not come to an end
without the poet having the last word:
a gnarled pear tree grew up in the sheep fold,
with fruit for all that travelled ’round the bend—
wizened road—it was a juicy harvest.
All those sheep who would enter this domain,
under the shepherd’s direction remain
(with bent crook and navy corduroy vest).
The poet’s chivalrous words would rivet—
Moss now wore dresses to the fire-warmed floor—
she was his queen of an eternal vein—
in linen and in emerald velvet:
dame in stone castle of words unspoken,
and he was builder of the last door’s frame.
The poet and Moss dined on wine, coarse bread,
drizzled with olive oil. Stew with onions,
sheep feta in salad with tomatoes and scallions,
she sewed their soft clothing with silken thread.
The hunters brought them their caught hares, wild game,
from the ceiling the brass pots hung, glowing,
teapots for Moss to pour black tea, steeping;
she cooked savoury soups, with cream and sage.
Silk, linen fabric was the mainstay, life
weaving away—the making of clothing
brought coloured material from afar,
and its folds made her slender form a wife,
she, lighting beeswax wicks, needed nothing,
her private smile indicated no scar.
Moss’s hands were blessed with the making of fare,
her husband was well kept and undefiled,
and in due time she swelled with child.
They both grew sleek upon the woolen pears
dripping juice—they drank, without e’er lacking,
and their wounds of life no longer blistered:
life on the porch had been traded for bliss
instead of a surreal horrifying
reality that could degenerate
on any day into despair. Jesus,
not fortune’s fine lady, smiled on the folk.
Later, the poet had been handsome paid
for his artistry, eight million pesos ...
and on into infinity he wrote.
On the day her son was born, Moss spoke—
she had kept her silence all those years, then
singing to herself when coins were bare spent,
weaving on through time with unflinching hope—
she called him “Barron Cypress,” that he was.
He was to inherit their good castle,
so his mother stroked, sang him wassail
songs from the cradle—where he saw
her kindly nature, and knew repentance.
He grew in the shadow of the stable,
the poet wrote pristine words of glass-blue,
and all who entered there, graciously blessed,
for they shared repast at his wood table,
and talked into the night, prayed to be new.
Barron Cypress studied equally hard
as his father had, and literature
became his pursuit. Even he matured
to a man with chestnut horse, and unmarred,
he approached the world with serenity
like a swan in dark waters that swims ’round
the pond with calm resilience on his brow,
in firm peace, with frugal regality.
His volta resounds throughout the poem
of his father, wisened through many years
of comforting his wife and lively son,
of banishing the death from the grey stone,
of loving God and people through their tears
until, from the clouds, emerged yellow sun.
The poet, now aged, carried a cane;
his hair, fiery white, to platinum rings.
As he entered the palaces of kings,
and people stared at him as he was lame.
He was still something of an oddity
with parchment scroll in hand, bound with leather,
around the house Moss had planted heather,
told to demurely fast and when to eat.
For God still spoke to her oft while in dreams,
when she was awake she could hear his sound—
insistent and endearing, he was choice,
only in her devotion to his means.
When, on her son’s return, his cry was loud:
as she lay cold and still, the poet’s voice.