“Noel” for the 8th day of Advent


By Anne Porter

When snow is shaken
From the balsam trees
And they’re cut down
And brought into our houses
When clustered sparks

Of many-colored fire
Appear at night
In ordinary windows
We hear and sing
The customary carols

They bring us ragged miracles
And hay and candles
And flowering weeds of poetry
That are loved all the more

Because they are so common
But there are carols
That carry phrases
Of the haunting music

Of the other world
A music wild and dangerous
As a prophet’s message
Or the fresh truth of children

Who though they come to us
From our own bodies
Are altogether new
With their small limbs

And birdlike voices
They look at us
With their clear eyes
And ask the piercing questions
God alone can answer.

“But there are haunting carols that carry phrases of the other world; a music wild and dangerous as a prophet’s message.”  There are songs that haunt; carry phrases of the ‘other world’ –and it’s the mystery in that very line and what that might mean that best exemplifies this. What other world? It is mystery. The whole season celebrates mystery.


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