Monday, January 6, 2014

A Poem for Epiphany

A Facebook post led me to this poem that I'll post below.  A friend wrote:  "Thinking of the Holy Family's exodus to Egypt and wondering how poorly / how well they slept on the journey."  I immediately thought of refugees of all sorts, of the desert Southwest of the U.S., of T. S. Eliot's "Journey of the Magi."

"Journey of the Magi" is quickly becoming my favorite T. S. Eliot poem.  I must confess, there's not much competition for that title.  My undergraduate and grad school self loved Prufrock, My older self is haunted by "The Hollow Men" and enchanted by "Journey of the Magi."

To read that poem, or better yet, to hear Eliot read it, go here.

And here's my take on it all.

Flights of the Family

“A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey”

                                    “Journey of the Magi” by T. S. Eliot

A cold coming we had of it,
the desert floor like an abandoned
sea bed, the cactus hobbling
our efforts, a murderous dictator behind
us, uncertainty ahead, only vague
warnings by an angel to serve as a guide.

We moved by night with a foreign sky
stretched above us, all celestial navigation
useless.  We detoured around hostile
cities and dirty villages, angels singing
their songs to hurry us forward.
A hard time we had of it.

We stayed several summers amidst the alien
people clutching their gods.  We learned
new ways of foretelling the future
in that temperate valley smelling of vegetation.

But we had to return to the kingdom of Death,
that old dispensation.  I have seen birth
and death, so much death, the nails,
the pieces of silver, the thirty betrayals
that come before every daybreak.
I would be glad of another birth.

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