(December 1997)

Copyright (c) 1997 First Things 78 (December 1997):.


if I lived in Seattle
at Christmastime
Iíd have committed suicide

a long time ago

itís bad enough
as it is
each year
over and over again
in Bethlehem,
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
of us,
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
from their
nearly yearlong
place the ducks upon the looking glass

arrange the sheep
and cows
in nestled mute array about
the manger
to make the
perfect configuration
in space & time
just so

(will I get it right
this year . . . ?)

I install
the shepherds, wise men, and
the sundry angels who
remain aloof

while the babyís fathers
and I
look on in awe

and wonder
can this be me

it happens to
each year at this time

I see the pained reminders:

to be put away ó
in hibernation
well before Easter

but thereís
with each new birth
that he wonít have

to commit

Carl Winderl


On the giantís hill, in the childís eye,
the old house stands hermaphrodite,
the mother-father rolled in light.
In brazen day, that Zionís done:
a trumpet cry to still the sun.

Beware, my love, beware, beware,
the skyís on fire and the air
is singed along its western rim.
Desire for day at dusk grows dim.

In the cityís 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 sewersí heat,
Cold heart that hates a loversí twine,
why break my loverís 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.

J. Bottum

If God Is That Sublime Moment

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 offó
itís 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 sonís
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 birthdayó
not his sonísó
when his eldest,
forgetting the persistence of an old manís dream,
said, "Make a wish, Father,"
and he did
and looked up . . .
seeing him afar off.

Warren L. Molton