advent: two poems

‘Advent’, by Donald Hall

When I see the cradle rocking
What is it that I see?
I see a rood on the hilltop
     Of Calvary.

When I hear the cattle lowing
What is it that they say?
They say that shadows feasted
     At Tenebrae.

When I know that the grave is empty,
Absence eviscerates me,
And I dwell in a cavernous, constant
     Horror vacui.

– Donald Hall, ‘Advent’, in The Back Chamber: Poems (New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011), 22.

‘A Praise in Advent’, by Arnold Kenseth

See, as we stumble in the Advent snows,
God comes to fathom us. He sends his Son,
A gentleness by whom our fear’s undone,
A jubilance who overcomes our woes.

At first, we hold him in the ancient picture:
Skoaled by great angels, crooned by watching beasts,
Thick-footed shepherds by his side, deep frosts;
Love’s history: for you and me hope’s texture.

Now he is with us, at our village stones,
Fingering the mortar, testing. His mirth
Assaults our streets, and daily he goes forth
Troubling our elegant houses with unknowns

That were and are before whatever is
Began to be. By him was made the air,
Sparrows, eagles, Asias, the sweet despair
Of the free mind. All honest things are his.

He is the holy one we waited for, the Word
Who speaks to us who stammer back, the plot
Against the rich and poor, the Gordian knot
Our wit cannot untie. He is time’s Lord.

Thus, shall we sing him well these Christmas days
And at his birth-feast practice with him praise.

– Arnold Kenseth, ‘A Praise in Advent’, in The Ritual Year: Christmas, Winter, and Other Seasons: Poems (Amherst: Amherst Writers and Artists Press, 1993), 90.

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