Day was nearly breaking when we awoke.
The winter storm was abating.
It was the first day of creation.
I did not care that we had no money.
That what was between us was still as fragile
as the sheer of our curtains.
We had returned from Italy.
The image of Christ's hand
raised in blessing, the face of the Virgin
suffused with light, the naked
Child was in my head.
I thought of the divine foreknowledge
that lies behind her strange smile
and I wanted it.
Last night's storm hit so hard
the tree had fallen, exposing
the writhing roots, the marks
like scratches where it had hit on its bark.
I ached for something greater
to take possession
like sap in the belly
of the tree
to go on living.
The entire city was snowbound.
Ice formed intricate crevices
along our window. The trees
along the tree-lawn
except for the one sacrificed
by the storm were bathed in robes of white.
In the harsh light of that evening
like the force of two celestial planets
colliding into one, I felt it take hold.
I pictured the fresco, the gold light
circling her head. The stab
so severe it sliced into the center
of my being. When we peered
out the window the scene before us
was no less serene or benevolent
than the nativity: the shadow
of the tree's icy arms spread out
like an angel's in the snow, the lip of light
cresting, the quickening of day upon us.
Through the reflection of our breath on the cold glass
I saw your round Italian features
distilled in the clairvoyant image
of the child. The wind picked up,
leaving no evidence
of how it might enlighten
This poem originally ran in the December 17, 2001, issue of the magazine.