Twelve Days of Christmas Poetry: VI

Christmas Trees

Bonhoeffer in his skylit cell
bleached by the flares, candescent fall,
pacing out his own citadel,

restores the broken themes of praise,
encourages our borrowed days,
by logic of his sacrifice.

Against wild reasons of the state
his words are quiet but not too quiet.
We hear too late or not too late

Geoffrey Hill


  1. Thomas Parkin says:

    I love Geoffrey Hill.

    Most of his recent stuff is pretty opaque – you need a topical guide to get at it: ( His poems are definitely work, only revealing themselves on many reads. Still. Good stuff.

    The combinaton of his colorful, material cosmology, and his indignation with modern society, gets him right close to what is, for me, the _aesthetic_ appeal of Mormonism.

    (Hope I’m not violating a purity in Kristine’s series by quoting my favorite Hill poem.)

    Sobieski’s Shield


    The blackberry, white
    field-rose, all others
    of that family:

    steadfast is the word

    and the star-gazing planet out of which
    lamentation is spun.


    Overnight as the year
    purple garish-brown
    aster chrysanthemum
    signally restored
    to a subsistence of slant light
    as one would venture
    Justice Equity
    or Sobieski’s Shield even
    the names
    and what they have about them dark to dark.

    (if You Could Hie to Kolob, indeed!!)


  2. What a gift of a thread!~ Thank you, Kristine.
    May I offer a timely poem by Galway Kinnell:


    Little beings with their hair blooming
    so differently on skulls of odd sizes
    and their eyes serious and their jaws
    very firm from singing in Gilead, and with
    their mouths gaping, saying
    “Ah!” for God,
    “O!” for an alphabet of O’s,
    they stand in rows, each suspended
    from a fishing line
    hooked at the breastbone, being hauled up
    toward the heavenly gases.

    Everyone who truly sings is beautiful.
    Even sad music
    requires an absolute happiness:
    eyes, nostrils, mouth strain together
    in quintal harmony
    to sing Joy and Death well.

  3. I didn’t want to be presumptuous by posting a poem of my own making in the same breath, as it were, with Galway Kinnell. So, separately, here is a New Year poem:


    The solitary junco
    at our bird feeder
    pays no heed
    to the tolling bells
    or shrill plastic horns
    that mimic rasping crows.
    It is not his new year
    that is welcomed.
    But it is mine.
    So I will remember to buy more sunflower seeds.
    And I have hung two wide strips of red
    ribbon in the window,
    because Friday, a sober junco crashed
    into the glass,
    seeing it as simply more dark night.
    I resolve to lose no more birds to illusion.

  4. Thanks, Kristine. I’m eagerly checking in every day. Anyone else making her way through Harold Bloom’s American Religious Poems? Nice to see May Swenson well represented.

  5. Molly,

    I haven’t picked up that book yet, but I have to think Bloom would like my personal tradition of reading Milton’s Ode on the Morning of Christ’s Nativity every Christmas. (I used to try to subject my family to it before Christmas brunch, but lengthy and voluble protests have convinced me to make this a private devotion :))