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Two Christmas Poems

Joseph O'Brien
Joseph O'Brien

Native Scene

  • The beasts of Jerusalem will murder him, but in the meantime the beasts of Bethlehem warm him with their breath. — Giovanni Papini
  • Nights are still cold on the starry hillside;
  • Dew still freezes in our sockets at dawn;
  • Our flocks still stir at a tree’s windy shade,
  • Moonlit and star-crossed, now and now again.
  • In camp, we still sound David’s ditties on long
  • Winter nights and the trade still goes, father
  • To son. A ewe’s birthing-bleat stills our song
  • And calls us back to scenes of another:
  • A brute moldy odor stunk up the hay,
  • Cows munched and passed the new into roughage,
  • And lice jump from stall to stall. You might say
  • All these were keepsakes, too, for heart’s old age.
  • But it’s only right. Beasts should have been there
  • First. Didn’t they see the world first, unspoiled
  • And native as the ruddy-faced mother,
  • The chafed flesh of her winter-glowing child?
  • The quick and measured jets of breath halted
  • At our entrance. Each looked on with an im-
  • Patient flap of an ear, heads piqued and tilted.
  • Yes, each seemed to say, it’s been a long time.

Christmas

…cujus coelesti mysterio pascimur et potamur.

  • No blood would pass, and maidenhead unabridged
  • Retained a purity beyond all words —
  • All words but One of course. Yet double-edged
  • To spit her heart and turn her sorrow, swords
  • Would point her toward another moment cradled
  • By wood before she lifted up and coddled
  • His body once again. While Bethlehem
  • Will drink the blood not his, Jerusalem
  • Remains in shadows not his — for King Herod
  • Will wait. He sleeps in peace. But innocence
  • Today awakes this hour of recompense
  • For evergreen and blood’s more fragile merit;
  • Each announces in a tremendous way
  • The hue and cry that colors Christmas day.
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Joseph O'Brien
Joseph O'Brien

Native Scene

  • The beasts of Jerusalem will murder him, but in the meantime the beasts of Bethlehem warm him with their breath. — Giovanni Papini
  • Nights are still cold on the starry hillside;
  • Dew still freezes in our sockets at dawn;
  • Our flocks still stir at a tree’s windy shade,
  • Moonlit and star-crossed, now and now again.
  • In camp, we still sound David’s ditties on long
  • Winter nights and the trade still goes, father
  • To son. A ewe’s birthing-bleat stills our song
  • And calls us back to scenes of another:
  • A brute moldy odor stunk up the hay,
  • Cows munched and passed the new into roughage,
  • And lice jump from stall to stall. You might say
  • All these were keepsakes, too, for heart’s old age.
  • But it’s only right. Beasts should have been there
  • First. Didn’t they see the world first, unspoiled
  • And native as the ruddy-faced mother,
  • The chafed flesh of her winter-glowing child?
  • The quick and measured jets of breath halted
  • At our entrance. Each looked on with an im-
  • Patient flap of an ear, heads piqued and tilted.
  • Yes, each seemed to say, it’s been a long time.

Christmas

…cujus coelesti mysterio pascimur et potamur.

  • No blood would pass, and maidenhead unabridged
  • Retained a purity beyond all words —
  • All words but One of course. Yet double-edged
  • To spit her heart and turn her sorrow, swords
  • Would point her toward another moment cradled
  • By wood before she lifted up and coddled
  • His body once again. While Bethlehem
  • Will drink the blood not his, Jerusalem
  • Remains in shadows not his — for King Herod
  • Will wait. He sleeps in peace. But innocence
  • Today awakes this hour of recompense
  • For evergreen and blood’s more fragile merit;
  • Each announces in a tremendous way
  • The hue and cry that colors Christmas day.
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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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