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An Old Song Ended

December 23, 1990

By J. D. McCLATCHY

at Christmas All earthly pomp or beauty to express Is but to carve in snow, on waves to write. Celestial things, though men conceive them less, Yet fullest are they in themselves of light; Such beams they yield as know no means to die, Such heat they cast as lifts the spirit high. Your tire tracks have spoiled the snow outside, And inside, where there's something wrong, the stem's Corrupt but slick subtext is magnified In the vase beneath a Star of Bethlehem. If nature disappoints, as it appears, Whom do we trust when each the other fears? When once the stars had crossed themselves to light A way for kings, or show as angels to the boy Minding his flock, who stares to see the night All changed into a story quick with joy, Now is nothing but fire, nothing but air. The only pattern here's this view, this chair It's difficult to look for long at snow, When most of heaven's fallen to earth out there. A scalding brilliance poured over the cold. Trees, the road, your car--lost in the glare. To steep myself in light, then close my eyes . . . These winter days are darkness in disguise. Sunlight and snowlight streaming in behind. Is blindness, then the gift you give before The rest?--forgiveness, say so hard to find In what's at hand, the common day which seems At last the light that yields such heat, such beams.

From "The Rest of the Way" (Alfred A. Knopf: $18.95; 80 pp.). copyright 1990 by J. D. McClatchy. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

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