Copyright (c) 1997 First Things 78 (December 1997):.
if I lived in Seattle
I’d have committed suicide
a long time ago
it’s bad enough
as it is
over and over again
with the steel mills all shut down
and now the K-Marts are too
but I take down
each year at this time
the plaster of paris statuettes
myself and all the others
that I made
especially the baby
unwrap him from his swaddling
to place him in the cardboard creche
the other figurines I awake
place the ducks upon the looking glass
arrange the sheep
in nestled mute array about
to make the
in space & time
(will I get it right
this year . . . ?)
the shepherds, wise men, and
the sundry angels who
while the baby’s fathers
look on in awe
can this be me
it happens to
each year at this time
I see the pained reminders:
to be put away —
well before Easter
with each new birth
that he won’t have
On the giant’s hill, in the child’s eye,
the old house stands hermaphrodite,
the mother-father rolled in light.
In brazen day, that Zion’s done:
a trumpet cry to still the sun.
Beware, my love, beware, beware,
the sky’s on fire and the air
is singed along its western rim.
Desire for day at dusk grows dim.
In the city’s prism, in the schism light,
the rain bends down the neon night.
Unseen, sequestered daughters cry
and in his bed a young man mourns
the Babylon of traffic horns.
Cold heart beneath the city street,
the subway lines, the sewers’ heat,
Cold heart that hates a lovers’ twine,
why break my lover’s heart from mine?
In the frozen zero, in the center night,
a cold heart plots against the light
and schemes to hide all range of sky.
The cities of the plain will change
my love to salt, her love to strange.
If God is that sublime moment
in the story when Jesus said,
"And his father seeing him afar off . . . "
which could mean, of course,
that he had been watching every day for years,
longing for him,
straining to see him afar off—
it’s that afar off that moves me . . .
or perhaps he only watched
in the late afternoon
thinking he would try to get home before dark,
or early in the morning
after pressing on all through the night,
or at high noon
when his father stood
shadowless under the sun
and remembered his son’s
innocence and sweetness . . .
or perhaps it was just by chance
he saw him
when he looked up
from repairing a harness
or tying a new broom
or from a nap in his favorite chair,
suddenly there he was,
his lost son
coming home . . .
or perhaps he only saw him
because it was his birthday—
not his son’s—
when his eldest,
forgetting the persistence of an old man’s dream,
said, "Make a wish, Father,"
and he did
and looked up . . .
seeing him afar off.
Warren L. Molton