The Fifth Day of Christmas

Angels understand eternity.

Always causes mortals trouble
as they try to grasp the absence
of an afterwards
or believe before has been
emptied of all meaning.

Angels speak to shepherds first.

Shepherds’ long night-watches,
on slowly-changing hillsides
beneath  sky’s starred enormity,
prepare them, more than most,
to be at peace with vast
and heaven-centred wonder;

Angels borrow shepherds to run errands.

Their trade persuades them they can find
whatever they go looking for –
even if it’s wandered off
risking it will lose itself
along a dead-end path.

Angels visit intermittently.

Shepherds simply do not leave:
they keep on pushing through
the crowds, like eager strangers,
full of what they’ve seen, intent
on stretching more imaginations
round the notion of an always
crosswise-intersecting now.

*Michael Bartholomew-Biggs is a retired mathematician living in London. He has published several poetry collections, most recently Tradesman’s Exit  (Shoestring
2009). He is poetry editor of the on-line magazine London Grip and
co-organiser of the Poetry in the Crypt reading series in Islington.

In our West Country town
we raised a Nativity —
it was almost life-size
in the way it’s done here
the Joseph and Mary
big-boned types from Chard
attending a manger
its yellow muslin bundle
its four turned chair-legs
and the kings no better
the shepherds as tinkers
but the remarkable thing
was a piebald mongrel
that visited the stable
each evening for weeks
sometimes to lift a leg
but vanishing away . . .
till a day it never came
and the people of this town
as one met the bill
to stuff its pelt life-hard
with a fine yellow sawdust
to install a modern saint
in the familiar stable

*Martyn Crucefix’s most recent collection, Hurt, was published by Enitharmon. His translation of Rainer Maria Rilke’s Duino Elegies
(Enitharmon 2006) was shortlisted for the 2007 Popescu Prize for
European Poetry Translation. His translation of Rilke’s Sonnets to
Orpheus will be published in 2012.

Three French Hens


Click here for accompanying singing hen film

*Ira Lightman
makes public art in the North East (the Spennymoor Letters, the Prudhoe
Glade, the Gatesheads) and lately Willenhall and Southampton. He
devises visual poetry forms and then asks local communities to supply
words that will bring them alive. He is a regular on BBC Radio 3′s The Verb.

One comment

  1. Thanks, Helen
    Here is a link to a higher res version for those who wish to read the text more closely

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