“Advent on South Hill” by Abby E. Murray

Abby E. Murray


When I can’t tell if the sun
is technically up or gone,

I walk the loop of my neighborhood,
embracing it with footprints.

We dread the dark here, though
there’s light from some lampposts

and maple leaves reminiscing
how brilliant they were before

they dried and thickened in our gutters.
I miss what is lit from within.

I wish I could say there are
goldfinches here even in winter

and maybe there are—
I haven’t seen one but the bird book

says they nest in Washington
year-round, molting from gilded

to woolly grey suits at the end of summer.
I wish I could find something weightless

or buoyant to hold. When it gets cold,
finches ditch what dazzles us

in favor of feathers grown solely
to keep them alive, a coat

the color of waiting, of slush,
of sleeping and waking and pacing.

My neighbors say little and close
their blinds so they don’t have to watch

the day end with me on the sidewalk,
nobody they know or want to see,

my hands empty, my face not quite
like one they’d remember.

Mornings, we glance at each other
the way I squint at sparrows,

as if to check the difference between
what I have and what I need to see,

something drab as getting by
or a gift in disguise, a song

about to burst from trampled weeds,
just one note brighter than yellow.

from Poets Respond
December 8, 2019


Abby E. Murray: “Saturday marked the end of the first week of Advent. My favorite season, though every year it seems harder to remember what light everyone is waiting for and whether it will arrive in a way we can see and feel. Light, like poetry, is something we can carry and wear like armor. I like that idea, instead of armor as burden. In my meditations, I wondered how many people spend this time of year waiting, being twisted and pulled by need, and how many of us spend the day trying not to show it. So much of what I do in my neighborhood, in particular, feels like a performance of loneliness. My neighbors don’t talk much, or, more specifically, just not to me—I’m too political, too tall; my dog is too aggressive. I’ve been told a hundred times at least that I am intimidating. If I am, I have no plans to change, but I don’t think I am. I’m spending these weeks waiting for light.” (web)

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