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

or harm.

This poem originally ran in the December 17, 2001, issue of the magazine.