Copyright (c) 1993 First Things 37 (November 1993):.


Shuffling through your city of perpetual night, you
have come to this Advent eucharist with the help
of a seeing-eye dog. You clutch tight

the pew back curl of wood expecting neither
miracle nor accident to set the sight on fire.
I watch you stare as from a cliff ledge, groping

for the cinnamon coat of the Labrador
curled beside your kneeler. The blue fire
of the sun lies pooled in its eyes. Awakened suddenly

to the impoliteness of my stare, I turn my gaze
to candle's flickering, a small crucifix

hung on a nail. I, too, have been led here
to the ruby light, though not by earthly Hound.

Climbing the narrow stair I have come, again,
in the hopes of even ground. Together we wait
for a cosmic burning to haul the eyelids up. I try

to imagine what it might be like for you, the absence
of light as large and pure as God, whether the Sanctus
and Agnus Dei fall like swords from pipes invisible.

And yet, when the priest raises the chalice
to your lips, it is clear the wine is a flame
holding up the sky, sustaining our night.

William North


how was it that he would want to earn her,
a second wife?

the way he would shear at my father's sheep

every muscle bent
and his neck throbbing
a hidden sun from some distant blessing

even as he ate the food i would prepare
with his fingers held mid air
at times
the only talking between us

how was it then . . .
into our nights where
everything practical
measured became
for every son i bore him
the war i could never win

Sister Lou Ella Hickman

The Failed Suicide

You have returned to find so much more
To despair: the flesh whiter,
More helpless, the city stinking
As never before, and those
Whom you had so carefully avoided
Are bringing tea and blankets now,
The bounty of their gardens.

Later, you find a potato
Rolled from the table, rolled
To the corner where it rests
With unnameable food crumbs,
Cobwebs, and dust. Still grubby
From the earth, it squats like a rock
In its armor of thin skin and dirt,
Eyes on all sides watching. Everything about it
Says I won't budge Everything
Repeats how it wants to remain,
Not to be boiled or mashed or left
To soften, stinking, in the cupboard
Beneath the sink. Everything about it
Says how wrong you were, it says
Look: the world is like this.

Victoria McCabe

Ritenuto: With My Daughter at the Lake

The Falls Road northern light was fading gray:
a sudden snowfall swept us eastward like
a curtain rising at the driveway to the lake.
I stopped my car beside the bridge and hiked out to the day's
last scene which starred my strong and happy sons
fast racing up along a gravelled path,
each to test the measure of his breath
and call his sister, "Here, come see, I've won."

She, beside me walking with her secret joys,
motioned her two gloved hands airborne
toward a stick out on the lake beyond the boys,
a dark branch balanced at the dam's ledge, in the roar
and plunging of that river on whose cascade into noise
it seemed to hesitate, poised there at the edge of more.

Hannah Strauss