POETRY: Twelfth Night by Philip Booth

Twelfth Night by Philip Booth

At Twelfth Night twilight now
the greens burn bright: the dry-spined wreath
and bittersweet returned to frozen earth,
Canada fir
become the fire
that wreathes a ritual circle in the snow.

The decorations are first
to flame: old mistletoe and holly
go up in a burst of charred berry, their holy
roots tossed on,
a burnt seed sown,
long after the symbol and song are lost.

Uprooted meanings flare
like watchfires in this cold backyard.
A single star outshines the ice. Unheard,
the Magi raise
their prayer; a blaze
of balsam climbs the still and brittle air.

At Twelfth Night twilight now
the tree must be the final torch,
a coronal to melt the dark; the branch
that angels swung on,
Christ hung on,
quick tinder lit to ebb the tidal snow.

From slow bright smoke the tree
explodes in fire-veins, star-sparks rain
like fallen Pleiades. The green grain
burns to warn
the burner, turn
his back on ceremonial memory.

No god’s made manifest
from this raw bush. But who will light
a legend that he will not celebrate?
In the quick match,
the winter watch,
the burner is both burned and blessed.

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