Audio: Read by the author.
Some years the sky falls harder than others.
The great go hush, good neighbors, poets, priests—
woe’s dreadful litany knows no surcease.
The dead are everywhere, and there’s the bother.
Miserere nobis, Lord, dust to dust
is pity little in the way of solace.
Our shaken sense of what comes next leaves us,
like as not, disconsolate. Unless
we count them in our cloud of witnesses,
their voices rising like a distant chorus,
tunes we always knew or thought we knew,
much as the multitude of the heavenly host
sang to shepherds attending their sheep
anthems of joy and peace, praise and glory.
Said one to the others, “Let us go and see,”
in Luke’s much-told version of the story.
And so, emboldened by what the angel told them,
off they went toward Bethlehem to find
the swaddled babe and manger and lolling beasts,
their beauty and their beings ramified
in carols lightening our lamentations;
and held aloft somehow, the starry skies.
Thomas Lynch’s most recent books include The Depositions: New and Selected Essays on Being and Ceasing to Be (Norton) and Bone Rosary: New and Selected Poems (David R. Godine). He keeps homes in Michigan and Moveen, West Clare, Ireland.