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Solstice Poem for Advent

I hold vigil for the candle’s light
flickering blue in its last drama.

My eye darts between book and flame
small as it is, floating on wax

not wanting to miss the moment
when fire goes out.

I am careful of breathing these
words too close
lest glowing orange hung with blue

blow out. Growing impatient
I tend the stove where moments before

I refused to leave, fearing dissolution
while I was away. Returning I find

the end of wick stalwartly clinging
to candlestick. What’s taking so long?

I demand of the air,
like a mother in labor

like my own ancestors huddled
in gloom
around the flickering light of

-- Judith Robbins
Whitefield, Maine


Winter’s stalled,
that in-between
stare of airport gates
where, undefined by walls,
the waiting gather,
seeing only escalators
moving only air.

The cactus is dying,
the lady slipper has long
slid back to dust,
and carrots in the fridge
revert to mush.

The cat curls on the winter
clothes in boxes,
refuses to be cute.
Even memory shuts down,
some five o’clock of the mind,
or an arcane feast
that only brains celebrate.

How long, oh Lord?
impatient body cries.

Some deeper, wiser spirit in me
knows this waiting is
better than any carnival,
more loving than a kiss.

-- Sr. Doretta Cornell, RDC
Bronx, New York

Cathedral Light

The way the light glazes the windows,
halo for crucifix and stained glass --
radical uprooting of old incarnations.

Epiphany, God with us, the past solstice’s
offering: a star in the east, the babe,
the son of God. Bless us, oh Christ,
in our darkness. Grant wisdom,
spirit of dawn and morning light.

-- Stella Nesanovich
Lake Charles, La.

Spirit of the Christmas Past

Hunkering now by the dying farolito blowing warm
breath into his stiff palms
it soothes him to know how it used to be when for nine days
they escorted the Holy Couple to a different house
each night
pleading for a warm place to stay and afterward how
they always celebrated

how good it was to gaze out the window late into the
night at the last farolito
that marked the Couple’s journey until it was only a
dozing ember
and he would count off one day less
but the best part came when there were no more days
left to count when after the Misa del Gallo he

would walk for a long time and go very far never
minding the cold
with his bellyful of hot posole singing Mis Chreesmes
fogswirled breath at each front door
returning at last with stinging ears and knuckles all blue
and the brown paper bag filled with hard candies and
oranges and
maybe a few pennies

it soothes him to know
because no one has him over for the posadas
anymore and there is
no more hard candy when he sings

-- Ed Chavez
Albequrque, N.M.


Chapped hands
cup the taper to
clone a yellow tongue
on the singed tip
And the brown softens

Blackened footfalls dot
silhouettes in the
blue stillness

only by a
breeze along the curb
teasing the

And the blaze struggles

In the damp sand the
wick bleeds a
waxy pool
down and down
until the eye blinks
no more
in the hardened puddle

And the vigil sleeps

-- Ed Chavez
Albuquerque, N.M.

Crèche Clout

Sheep have it;
Goats do not.
Oxen are in;
Hippos are out.
Donkeys win;
Turtles lose.
Camels are a hit;
Pandas are a flop.

-- Francis L. Kunkel
New York

Women of Color

They have cradled civilizations
In the countries of the Rift
And around the Mare Nostrum of the Romans:
Moorish and Greek, Near Eastern,
Queens of Upper and Lower Egypt
Streaking their eyes already the color
Of lava, with the kohl-enhancements
Of their volcanic fires. Out of volcanic
Ashes, a first dark feminoid, animal-
Faced, bore her young to safer caves;
And in a cave, redolent with the dung
Of other animals, at civilization’s
Earliest apex, a girl of color bent
Her brown limbs to birth God’s Son.

-- Nancy G. Westerfield
Kearney, Neb.

2002 in Poetry

2001 in Poetry

2000 in Poetry

1999 in Poetry

Poems should be previously unpublished and limited to about 50 lines and preferably typed. Please send poems to NCR POETRY, 115 E. Armour Blvd., Kansas City MO 64111-1203. Or via e-mail to poetry@natcath.org or fax (816) 968-2280. Please include your street address, city, state, zip and daytime telephone number. NCR offers a small payment for poems we publish, so please include your Social Security number.

National Catholic Reporter, December 20, 2002