Advent in the North



The moon sheds silver shadows on the sky,

blue shadows on the snow;

the house-beams crack all night,

startling us with the news

that it is colder than we thought.

“Winter is closing in,” we say,

but winter moves us outward in imagination

to learn how cold it is to be exiled from the sun,

how lonely the darkness,

how welcome the light of any approaching star.




The radiators wakened me

(four a.m., after a night of blizzard)

alarmed me with their frantic gushing,

a niagara roaring through the system,

gurgling, swirling, growling

through every pipe, making the circuit

of the house with urgency.

Anxiety washed over me — not just

concern about the state of the furnace,

but dread of where we might be carried

beyond sleep, through the storm:

to what cold shore?


Day emerges with a rare shining:

not remnants of moonlight

or the early edge of dawn,

but the sheen of new snow

binding every branch.

Somehow the snowfall invaded

without waking us,

took over without resistance,

left us helpless at the window,

captives of beauty and cold.


When you live in the north

where winter, white ogre,

grips the calendar for months,

then a bird’ s song in mid-March

tastes like Spanish wine,

and your heart can easily miss a beat

at the sight

of a puddle.

Sr. Kate


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