by Christopher Raley,

who tried to write a pleasant Christmas poem

and ended up with this.


Let a bow be for the angel,

indistinct in all but shape, and white.

She receives the tree

and her skirt entwines

brown and green limbs.


Let a bow be for the savior

ungraven and possessed of no stasis,

red and small on the top of presents.

He reigns in the shadows

covering hopes and desires

to be revealed perhaps but never owned.


I wish I could write Merry Christmas

in the form and feel of the angel we raise up.

But I can’t forget that life came for death,

that the baby was wrapped in a burial shroud,

and that we too shine brightest

when wrapped in grief.


So let Christmas be what it is:

pagans and saints drinking together,

falling asleep in one another’s arms

on the eve of waking up

to what cannot be given back.


But let us now (and on all days)

choose both who we are

and what we conceal

before we loose our hearts

to paper and ribbon,

before the baby returns a king

with judgement in his hands.


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