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The Calendar

ISSUE:  Summer 1942

The hearth-flame’s lean and groping wrist
Climbs through the logs with sinewy twist,
The wood that it will soon bring low
With heat devotional and slow.
Erratic colonies of spark
Lodge in the soot like creeping stars.
Each point by point across the dark
Limps through the sky like crippled Mars.
We say that we have watched a death
When autumn puts the leaves to flight,
But on the hearth this winter night
We feel the deadlier dragon-breath
That heat and filmy coals can throw.
Marriage in spring, death in the fall,
Birth in the green leaf, sleep in snow,
Cleanness in fire; and in them all
What some have learned the art to call
By the one name of sacrament.
But what of all that nameless round,
The main estate of human ground
That is not birth nor marriage bed
Nor supper mindful of the dead
Nor death itself, but only waste,
An interlife without a taste?
The fire’s first bud, the stripling blaze,
The masculine flame that spreads its palm
To wrap the hearth in hot control,
The aging heat that spends in calm
And quietly consumes to coal
Should give us sacraments enough
To fill a calendar of days.
But when we see them all file past,
When for some child of snow and sun
Both life and interlife are done,
Often we think the last is best,
The sacrament that ends the rest.


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