William Greenway



She wasn’t supposed to happen—

poor-white mother, black father,

split (hit it and quit it),

Opelika, Alabama. 

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,

PA.  Okay, 

to Youngstown, Ohio,

no star to guide us, but

a GPS to bounce one off of.


However these little deities arrive,

they change everything,

mostly lives,

and no matter how much

we don’t want this comfy old world

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,

sparrows falling.

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.



The Christening


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

comes after.

William Greenway's tenth collection, Everywhere at Once, won the Poetry Book of the Year Award from the Ohio Library Association, as did his eighth collection, Ascending Order. Both are from the University of Akron Press Poetry Series.  His work appears widely: Poetry, American Poetry Review, Southern Review, Georgia Review, Missouri Review, Southern Poetry Review, Prairie Schooner, Poetry Northwest, and Shenandoah. He has been named Georgia Author of the Year and received many other honors, including the Helen and Laura Krout Memorial Poetry Award, the Larry Levis Editors' Prize from Missouri Review; the Open Voice Poetry Award from The Writer's Voice, the State Street Press Chapbook Competition, an Ohio Arts Council Grant, and an Academy of American Poets Prize. He is Distinguished Professor of English at Youngstown State University.



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