Maybe because I am a little old—
I am less interested in the star
and the baby
than the colder Greek definition
of “dawn.” which comes, say, on a battle-
field—where you can see what has
been done, where you can see
what it will take to pick up again.
of light arriving—that it is, of course,
beautiful, but also fearful.
I am more interested in the girl,
who we always see depicted as so calm,
prettified in blue and gilt stars,
that obscure smile,
but must have been a barefoot
standing in the half dark of a house
beside a barn of warm
too-fragrant animals, holding perhaps
a horn of water,
a plate of food meant for someone else.
The codes that are used
later have nothing to do with her;
she is not divine, but
the light falls on her palms and then
her forearms. Beneath her dress
she can feel her thighs. In later versions, a
glass will break, but here it is
only air, dust motes spinning,
a swift kick inside,
a night barely remembered, and the angel
winged and tall as a star,
swollen with awful mystery,
a heart torn from the cave of someone’s
chest, blood flowing from his hands
as he tells her his good news.
Sheila Black is the author of four poetry collections, most recently Iron, Ardent (Educe Press, 2017). She is a co-editor of Beauty is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability (Cinco Puntos Press, 2011). Her poems have appeared in Poetry, The Birmingham Review, The New York Times and other places. She currently divides her time between San Antonio, TX, and Washington, D.C., where she works at AWP.