The Innisfree Poetry Journal
by William Greenway
She wasn’t supposed to happen—
poor-white mother, black father,
split (hit it and quit it),
Almost in time for that other birth
(alleged) in this snowy season,
though cotton-bearded shepherds
in bedsheets, bespectacled Magi,
and plywood mangers abound.
The Assisted Living crèche
has real sheep, goats, a mangy
camel, even a homesick llama
to bow to the rubber baby.
An angel announced the news
(she said); unto us a social worker,
underpaid angel of a kind.
And then the long ride
back home to Bethlehem,
to Youngstown, Ohio,
no star to guide us, but
a GPS to bounce one off of.
However these little deities arrive,
they change everything,
and no matter how much
to pass away,
it always does,
and the new one shall always
take us with it.
All through the Night
No atheists in foxholes
nor near the flames of infant fevers.
Guardian angels around my bed
sang Mario Lanza (written by Harpo Marx!)
on old black, shellac 78s.
Only a fool would still believe
in those old wives’ tales, but,
growing up in a holy-ghost-haunted house,
how to outgrow them? No more
kneeling by the bedside, no Brahms lullaby,
no Welsh grandfather singing sleep my child
and peace attend thee, all through the night.
But how I miss those lilies
of the field, hairs numbered,
Now, my daughter sleeping in the next room,
I’d give the rest of my life, even sell
my soul to some devil or other,
for—round her bed, wielding swords,
all of them flaming—legions
of the angels I don’t believe in.
I was just a tot when the two preachers,
my Baptist Daddy and his daddy, Welsh
Methodist—wrangled over how much water
it takes to get us into heaven.
So at seven (“The Age
of Accountability”) I walked the aisle,
“Just As I Am” (or was),
then thumbed my nose
in prayer as preacher Daniel dunked me
in the Jordan River painted
poorly on the white-washed wall
behind the choir loft,
my grandfather by then either singing
in glory, or spitted and singeing
above the flames.
Now, finally parents ourselves,
we worry about the babe, our only one,
how we’d hate to see her in hell
with us, but her little bath comes only
halfway up, the only tongue she speaks
the wailing when, hearts stopping,
we hear the big bonk of her head
hitting the hardwood again.
So, with no priest or preacher
to say yea or nay,
looks like we have the job ourselves,
either in the soapy bubbles
of the bathtub Jordan,
or with the sloshed gin of Happy Hour,
to prepare this trinity
for the Big Bonk
waiting for us all,
and whatever water, word, or hardwood
Copyright 2006-2012 by Cook Communication