POETRY by Walter Wangerin, Jr.

For the Twelfth Night

Sing softly the cherries,
Red, red, sweet and good;
Sing apples and oranges,
The cinnamon food.

Dance swiftly the cider,
Spin more than you should;
For liquor and laughter
Will lighten your load.

Declaim the roast turkey
And riddle the sauce;
Potatoes are stories
Of fortune and loss.

Pipe merrily carrots,
Drum beets till they bleed;
They root down to darkness
Who started as seed.

Oh, candy the greetings
You give to your guests;
The wassil is fleeting
And life ends in death.

So taffy your handshake
And ginger the kiss;
Bake huggings like muffins,
A brave eucharist.

Be feast for our Christmas
And I’ll be the food;
Beg Christ to assist us,
In everything good.

Joseph’s Carol

Mary, I’ll build you a little home
Where three of us can dwell.
The roof will be straw and the walls will be stone
To keep you very well.

I’ll make you a cradle for your child
To rock him to and fro;
And if he should wake and cry a while,
I’ll stroke him top to toe.

Board for a table, canes for a chair,
Copper for pots and plates;
I’ll furnish your kitchen with dinnerware
And bake you barley cakes.

Oh, Mary! Mary, marry me,
And I’ll provide you both
With everything your bodies need—
Till God requires a death.

I’ll be to Jesus fatherly,
Until that Father calls
Whose roof is all eternity,
And mountains are his walls.

And then I’ll build one other thing,
A box to fit a grave,
A place to lay the Baby-King
The world who came to save.

I’ll hold you Mary, heaven’s queen,
Until your child awakes,
Raised by the builder of everything,
In three primeval days.

Then fly! Then fly! Oh, Mary, fly
From here to paradise.
Your son’s the Son of the Most High:
Oh, go to him, the Christ. . . .

Mary, I’ve hammered a little home
Where three of us can live
My roof is but straw and my walls are mere stone,
Until you have to leave. . . .

The Carol of Warm and Cold

Mary, she blows on her knuckle
The wind so cold
The night and the snow:
Mary, she blows on her knuckle-bone
While Joseph, he blows on the coal.

The donkey that bore the young mother
Sing lullabies
On perilous ice:
The donkey that bore the young mother bore
The bearer of Jesus, the Christ.

Mary, she hasn’t the ticking
Cold stone the floor
And wind at the door:
Mary, she hasn’t a mattress for
Catching her baby and Lord.

Joseph, he doff his warm clothing
And binds the hay
A cradle creating:
Joseph, he makes of his woolen robe
Swaddling sheets for the babe.

We are the watchers who watch them
Two cries at night
One pain, one delight:
We are the watchers when Mary breathes
Breath in the infant, and life.

We are the beasts and the singers
Ba! Ba!
Gloria!
We are the hosts and the herders who
See and remember the sight.

While Mary, she blows on the baby
The wind so cold
The night and the snow:
Mary, she kisses her baby’s toes
And Joseph, he brightens the coal.

Starting with the renowned Book of the Dun Cow, Walter Wangerin, Jr.’s writing career has encompassed almost every genre: fiction, essay, short story, children’s story, meditation, and biblical exposition. The author of over forty books, Wangerin has won the National Book Award, New York Times Best Children’s Book of the Year Award, and several Gold Medallions, including best-fiction awards for both The Book of God and Paul: A Novel. He lives in Valparaiso, Indiana, where he is Senior Research Professor at Valparaiso University.