e-mail us


City of Bread

God said:
“The jar of flour
shall not go empty
nor jug of oil
run dry.”
Yet man decided
to ration,
forego risk; so
the hungry go



Bethlehem yearns
to birth abundant life.
Its native son weeps
for all to table
cannot come
Yet, Adam
debates, decrees,
delays; so
the hungry go



-- Pat Mings
Idaho Falls, Idaho


They’re meant to be sung not by the angels
of Bethlehem but by the likes of you and me
straining to sing the melodies, perhaps
transposing them to a lower key.

The Mystery dwells in the songs we sing
at Christmas. They call us forth,
uniting us in jubilation, even when
the highest notes surpass us.

-- Fr. Walter Bado, SJ
Lexington, Ky.

Christmas Eve

The bloom is off the rose in Maine
as December swirls at the garden gate
and builds a pure crescendo
of soundless white.

In this aching night
of deep cold, I look for you across the storm
to approach my snowbound house
at the end of the road.

Night grows old
with no sign, so I turn to retire to bed
and find in my inner chamber a single rose
fragrant as spring in the June garden

its petals soft as an infant’s skin.
Christmas blooms deep within
as I drop my expectations
and kneel to praise.

-- Judith Robbins
Whitefield, Maine

(Inspired by a painting of the same title by Tatiana Grant)

From one angel’s trumpet,
a stellar lullaby flows
to create a cave of safety
for Mother and Child.
Russia is in this iconographic
picture: Background of Byzantine
gold, prayers rising above
an obscure monastery.
Tatiana paints her gift
as three kings arrive, breathless.
We feel the embrace.
Christmas is coming.
“The world is moving
(as the heart doctor says)
from if to yes!”

-- Kathleen Gunton
Orange, Calif.

Christmas Eve

innocuous thread
come loose from the tapestry,
she weaves her way
deftly down the steps,
past the priest breathing
frosty benedictions,
past the merry loiterers
shivering in little clumps,
nodding and smiling
at otherwise strangers,
as if all were truly
Body of Christ

nodding and smiling,
without being drawn
into touch or glance,
eyes on feet,
she hurries to the street,
as if she too had family
feast awaiting

into the welcome dark
she walks, free of
other people’s pity,
other people’s joy,
past homes with steamy windows
and porch lights on,
beacon stars
guiding their Wise Men

it would be nice,
she thinks, to see
a flock of angels,
singing or not,
or one sitting in a tree
or on the curb,
eating an orange,
something, some little gift,
to tell her she

she rounds the corner
into a burst of light
illuminating the lawn
of the First Bible Church,
where floodlights beam
upon a plywood crèche
wherein a Holy Family
of human children
grows bored with
Mary and Joseph
appear to be wrestling
while Baby Jesus,
sausage-stuffed into the manger,
flails his limbs
like an overturned beetle,
shrieking demand
for release

a protecting angel,
its wings outlined
in blinking lights, pivots unsteadily
on the shaking roof,
lists finally
to the right

in the instant
of converging eyes,
actors and audience
assume their roles --
Mary stuffs a lollipop
into the Child’s mouth,
motions Joseph to her side,
folds her mittened hands
as they serenade
the blessedly silent Jesus
with a jubilant
“Jingle Bells”

the woman’s hands,
spread like a fan
across her mouth
to contain delight,
move now to applause,
the children wave, bow,
laugh, throw kisses,
before the church door opens
and all disappear into lives
somewhere else,
rejoicing that
in this moment,
on this night,
they have

-- Ethel Pochocki
Brooks, Maine

Seasonal Familiars
O Come, O Come, Emmanual

In this Advent season of mercies
they come
seasonal partners,
Jesus the ventriloquist,
Santa the smiling fella
whose mouth says the words.
They work the malls and the memories.
Santa gets more media coverage,
mugs the cameras,
but wise folk know
who’s the brains,
who feeds the lines out.
Together they specialize
in tidings of comfort and joy.
Or sometimes they’re just buddies --
Jesus and St. Nick --
intertwined from childhood,
overlapping in the mind,
Nick poor and lowly
and Jesus wearing red cap with pompon,
lisping in divine babytalk
his soft “Ho ho ho.”

-- Sr. Pat Schnapp, RSM
Adrian, Mich.

1999 in POETRY

2000 in POETRY

Poems should be 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 22, 2000