Feast of the Epiphany

NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2013: POETRY

by Julia Spicher Kasdorf

That town along the tracks where trains no longer stopped
had more bars than churches, but everyone kept Christmas

so on January 6th, a day most of us could not name,
volunteer firemen gathered at the playground to burn trees,

our own and those we begged from old neighbors. A branch
in each mittened hand, we’d drag them through the streets

to the place where men in helmets and thick, complicated coats
bent to bestow one new year’s dime for each brittle pine

they’d receive and hurl into the blaze. Now we might ask where
the mothers were—home, fixing dinner, fathers on the road—

but have I told this well enough for you to hear the conflagration,
hot and loud as a locomotive, for you to see the sparks spray

in great arrays against the night? There could have been a war
somewhere or mills closing, but those men—faces painted

with flames—did not resemble neighbors or uncles of school mates
that night. Walking, cold and tired, into the rest of winter,

a child could be light with dimes and lead tinsel in her pocket,
pine needles splintered in her snow boots’ fleece.

 

Julia Spicher Kasdorf, professor of English and Womens Studies at Penn State University, attended Goshen College and New York University. She is the author or editor of three collections of poetry, a poetry anthology about Brooklyn, New York, and two nonfiction books on Mennonite history and culture. She lives in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania.