Blessed is the short day.
—John Berryman

I ponder the complexity of things:
how the sun moves, azimuthal,
through the weave of sky,
how the wintered days deplete
the air of light, how a broken thing
replenishes its scars until its life
becomes an elegy to what it knows.
Last night, I dreamt my way
into a better life: the trees
were lichened to the air, the paths
towards wisdom weren’t obtuse,
the words men utter in the haste
of heat did not take years of cold
to utter back. I woke as men wake
all their days—distempered
by the conflict of their ways
and wish, beleaguered by the griefs
that linger through the cold.
But I grow wise at last
remembering the early hurts.
I grow wise in silent ways
which speech absolves. I grow wise
and sift the fallen petals from
the ground, and press their fragrance
to my lips, and speak, and speak, and urge
my days to lengthen forward once again in the good name of light.

Introduce yourself to The New Criterion for the lowest price ever—and a receive an extra issue as thanks.

This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 3 Number 5, on page 37
Copyright © 2019 The New Criterion | www.newcriterion.com
staging.newcriterion.com/issues/1985/1/winter-solstice-1983