Tonight a blackout. Twenty years ago
I hung my stocking on the tree, and hell’s
Serpent entwined the apple in the toe
To sting the child with knowledge. Hooker’s heels
Kicking at nothing in the shifting snow,
A cannon and a cairn of cannon balls
Rusting before the blackened Statehouse, know
How the long horn of plenty broke like glass
In Hooker’s gauntlets. Once I came from Mass;
Now storm—clouds shelter Christmas, once again
Mars meets his fruitless star with open arms,
His heavy saber flashes with the rime,
The war—god’s bronzed and empty forehead forms
Anonymous machinery from raw men;
The cannon on the Common cannot stun
The blundering butcher as he rides on Time—
The barrel clinks with holly. I am cold:
I ask for bread, my father gives me mould;
His stocking is full of stones. Santa in red
Is crowned with wizened berries. Man of war,
Where is the summer’s garden? In its bed
The ancient speckled serpent will appear,
And black—eyed susan with her frizzled head.
When Chancellorsville mowed down the volunteer,
“All wars are boyish,” Herman Melville said;
But we are old, our fields are running wild:
Till Christ again turn wanderer and child.

from Lord Weary's Castle


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