by Clay Matthews

Christmas Eve at the graveyard,
the children of a woman

who helped raise me sing “Silent Night”
for their mother. Rows away

my brother sleeps the long dream
beside my grandmother, my kin,

my people. Somehow snowfall
always seems to accompany angels.

Somehow we’ve made it through
the apocalypse, still waiting

in long lines at the chicken shack.
My daughter forever bundled

in sock hats and blankets,
a candy cane dripping off her face.

I start to tell her a story
but there is too much to say

and nowhere right to begin.
The first word she learned

was more of a song than anything,
more of a sound than sense,

the voices of those three women
lifting the spirit of their mother

who was a giant woman, hands
like the wings of a bird

born never to fly, baritone
and sweet in command

as all of us were children then
and family. In the distance the dogs pant

from a long run, a hawk
writes eternity in the sky,

the long white hem of her apron
dragging the holy ground.

CLAY MATTHEWS has published poetry in journals such as The American Poetry ReviewBlack Warrior ReviewKenyon ReviewGulf Coast, and elsewhere. His most recent book, Shore, was recently released from Cooper Dillon Books. His other books are Superfecta (Ghost Road Press), RUNOFF (BlazeVox), and Pretty, Rooster (Cooper Dillon). He teaches at Tusculum College in Greeneville, TN, and edits poetry for the Tusculum Review.