Spring 1985 • Vol. VII No. 2 Poetry |

The Crèche

It survived the loud, jostling train from Baden to Berlin, and the heave and slant, the pitch, pivot, and lean of the bad boat to New York. She held it to her in a hatbox stuffed with husks, all across steerage and Pennsylvania, down the slow road of the Ohio River to Cairo and up the dirt tracks and coal- paved paths to Frankfort, Illinois, her sudden husband, her life. She was mined for the children in her, one daughter, then another, a short seam, quick to clay, and not a single son to save them.   But each December found her unfolding from their sheaths the pale figures from Dresden: Holy Mother, mild worker in wood, stock reclining and ruminant, the infant peering skyward through His upheld hands. And through the years we have come to know this story, how starved, buried on scrip to the company store, the miner came coal-hearted home, the winter just begun, his daughters already asleep, and the crèche below a sprig of pine. How blind in the peripheral light, unhelmete

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Robert Wrigley teaches at the University of Idaho. His sixth book, Lives of the Animals, will be published later this year by Penguin, which also published his Reign of Snakes, winner of the 2000 Kingsley Tufts Award.

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