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Canticle for Early Winter
Juditha Dowd

Riding over the garden wall the moon could be a chorister,
a balding baritone. From the way expectation encircles
his mouth, his cheeks puffed to preserve the legato,
I wonder if he’s singing Lauridsen’s O Magnum Mysterium,
the long O of the first few bars shining across the frozen lawn.
It yearns for an echo.
Beata Virgo, he sings among the naked trees, O Great Mystery.
See how his eyebrows meet in ecstasy. Yes,
let’s wish him a soprano, an ethereal girl from the choir
who probably finds him annoying.
If only she could see him here among the staccato trees,
how his eyebrows meet in ecstasy, the O of his pleasure,
how could she but add her voice, become with him polyphony?
Virgo, you must love this man tonight, imagine his hands
clasping a folder of music, his hurrying from supper,
fervent in the wish to be on time.
And so he is—loud and clear among the stars—
worthy of the distant alleluia,
the distant alleluia.


This poem first appeared in Passager.
Used here with the author’s permission.

Juditha Dowd lives near the Delaware River with her husband and cats. Her work appears frequently in literary journals and anthologies, and she has published three chapbooks. 
Juditha belongs to a nine-member poetry ensemble, Cool Women, that performs in the NY-Philadelphia metro area and, occasionally, in Oregon. Nine months of the year, she can be found working in her garden.

Post New Comment:
Fantastic poem, the moon, the baritone -- I'm sure I'll be thinking of this while in opera rehearsals this week and I'll be better entertained during those long dull pauses!
Posted 02/02/2013 12:25 PM
Bravo, moon and Juditha!
Posted 01/30/2013 03:48 PM
As an ardent chorister myself, I am so delighted by the images (and the music references) of this poem. Thanks a lot for it: the moon a balding baritone!
Posted 01/30/2013 12:40 PM
lisa honecker:
I'm a Virgo, this poem is erotic and sensual
Posted 01/30/2013 10:59 AM
That's just beautiful, and what a delightfully different way to write about the often honored moon!
Posted 01/30/2013 10:53 AM
Wow. I like this one. Thanks!
Posted 01/30/2013 08:53 AM
Kathe L. Palka:
Love it Judy! All the sounds and sights and that marvelous echoed "distant alleluia" that ends the piece. Bravo!
Posted 01/30/2013 08:49 AM
There is such a rich mythology about the moon, and this is a splendid addition. I love "the long O of the first few bars shining across the frozen lawn."
Posted 01/30/2013 07:54 AM
Superb, connecting the human and sublime. Read listening to Lauridsen’s O Magnum Mysterium:
Posted 01/30/2013 06:41 AM

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