Catherine Chandler's Poetry Blog

Friday, January 6, 2012

. . . gold, frankincense and myrrh

A poem begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a lovesickness. (Robert Frost)

A homeless person sleeps on a steaming vent on York St. in downtown Toronto.

To the Man on Mansfield Street
      by Catherine Chandler

I have imagined countless reasons for
your sleeping on the hotel heating vent ---
a lengthy layoff, months of unpaid rent,
a gambling debt, divorce, a private war . . .

Or was it something darker, maybe drink,
a need to fill your veins with heroin;
insanity, a secret or a sin
you wouldn’t whisper to a priest or shrink?

The morning traffic soon will wake you up;
you’ll check there’s nothing missing from your bag;
you’ll bind your blisters with a dirty rag
and later gauge the clinking in your cup.

I see the bright-eyed boy you surely were;
I see the tender infant, newly-born,
the Baby who, before the cross and thorn,
was given gold and frankincense and myrrh.

Unlike the offerings of wiser men,
all that I give you is a cigarette,
the time of day, some change, my mute regret
that begs to differ with the word, Amen.

(first published in the Shit Creek Review, Summer 2007)


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