A Midwinter Song

The chaste moon cackles over fields of white
 and pours its pregnant wrath upon
 a black crepe sky where seems the sun
   will never rise
   nor fill its run
      on this, the longest night.
Beneath her blushing falseness tramps a lone
 and lonely hireling; bit with frost
 in callouses and cuts, near lost
   to winter’s plows,
   gust swept and crossed
      as ponderous limps he home.
There stands his hovel drowning in the snow,
 patched keep befitting such a lord
 of rented dirt, wages’ reward:
   each corner damp
   and each cracked board
      invites the wind to blow
within to rake and rage the crumbling hearth.
 The solemn glow of this yule’s log
 burns low, a fitting epilogue
   to stillborn days
   and demagogues,
      response of empty earth.
Where vestals mock his bed and vacant chair
 and flames burn memories, he begs 
 an invocation for but dregs
   and lees of life,
   bending his legs
      to any gods who’d hear.
Cold answers. He coughs, thumbs his violin,
 and with its strings draws silvery prayers,
 its notes ascend celestial stairs,
   or so he dreams,
   dispels his tears,
      blames neither Jove nor Odin.
Then, from the desert, a Judean breath
 spreads north from Caspia to Rus,
 westward to Macedon—a truce
   twixt Orient
   and Dover, sluiced
      cross earth to slip cruel Death.
And through his casement toward the East he spies
 aloft a newborn star, a light
 like rainbow rapiers splintering night,
   gags lunar laughs,
   and turns contrite
      the funerary skies.
From soul to snow the notes arise: he sings
 an unknown tune when how now full
 and decked in buds unseasonal
   the Virgin maid
   removes her shawl
      to greet the good Czech king.
He hymns of how the dissipated thief
 and outcast harlot brook the streams
 of grace: once scorned, now sympathy
   they share with saints
   around a tree
      to find elusive peace.
He hums a wordless line, a lingering key:
 for if the heavens dance anew,
 might not time turn and hope subdue
   the sterile grave’s
   stone certitude,
      crescendo toward one Day?
The smiling solitary plays in awe
 his infant song, the child’s refrain
 in aging hands made new again
   in dawn’s crisp air
   resounds. And then
      the ice begins its thaw.

Joshua S Fullman

Joshua S. Fullman is Professor of English and Director of the Writing Center at California Baptist University. His poems have appeared in The North American Anglican, among other publications. His debut book of poetry, Voices of Iona (2022), is available through Resource Publications.


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