The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Anne Caston

Michaelmas, 2014: Feast Day of the Archangel


Under the half-gone, leaning elm,
       among the yellow mums and asters of fall,

a bee bumbles by, impossible
       thing with wings tumbling,

nectar-addled, from bloom to bright bloom.
       We too seem besotted today in the ambient

slant of late-season light, the stormy
       Atlantic far off over the white dunes, sloshing

softly, rim to rim, in its briny bowl.


The neighbor’s boy asks my dog
       a riddle. Ax, hammer, saw, nail: which

are you, little bird?
His mother explains
       it’s a dog, not a bird, but he’s having none of that.

Bird! Bird! he shrieks, flapping his skinny arms,
       rushing headlong into the street

between his house and mine.
       And so she stumbles after him,

her difficult, addled boy, the whole enigma
       and paradox of him.

She goes to him now as a pilgrim goes,
       in longing and ardor, towards the holy place.


As she settles him again, first stars arrive,
       feast day of the archangel almost done.

What can an archangel possibly know – moving
       always between heaven and earth – of the distances

we travel here, the small daily voyages we make
       from sorrow to sorrow or the fouled-at-birth

strait in a boy’s brain between two
       perfect hemispheres?

And what could an angel know
       of love’s threadbare coat

into which his mother buttons herself each day
       or how, underneath it, she must

steady again and again each day
       her just-handed-back-to-her heart?



Anne Caston



Christmas Eve, 2014

She's the mote in everyone's eye
      here tonight, this work-splintered
woman from the rendering plant.

All day today she worked the line, sorting
      heads from hooves, sorting the beloved
pets from roadkill – all of it

tossed into giant steel vats, into the foul
      slurry of whatever's-left-over.
A big stinking pot, she says, of after-life stew.

Festive lights wink behind her, no less
      certain than ever and, on the Inn's holly-wreathed
mantle, the familiar Nativity scene:

the star-crossed Christ Child swaddled
      in a bed of rough hay, his sad-faced mother
looking on, the placid beasts and shepherds,

the Wise Men with their exotic gifts and,
      over them all, Gabriel and the star – the old
promise of it suddenly so strange

in light of this woman and her work
      to which she will surely return
day after tomorrow, and all the days after,

that I want to resist tonight the perfect
      remembered joy, to give myself over
to the breaking, wrenched-apart

heart of this woman, to remember
      how I live – happy mostly – in the middle
of a bittersweet, almost-gone world

where, when lamps are lit at nightfall
      and the small stars of heaven brighten over the dark sea,
I can tell myself I am safe, and loved, and that this night is holy.




ANNE CASTON is author of three collections of poetry: Flying Out With The Wounded (NYU Press, 1997), Judah's Lion (Toad Hall Press, 2009), and PRODIGAL (Aldrich Press, 2014). She is core faculty in the MFA Program in Creative Writing at the University of Alaska Anchorage and lives with her husband in Anchorage, Alaska.



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