‘December Canticle’ for December First

This poem dates from December 1977 and was reprinted in my recent book What Is the City? At the time I wrote this I was trying different forms for my poems and pushing myself to write in a more open way with lots of unusual images and unexpected language. The original published version of the poem has three times as many lines. This is a kind of chant, maybe even prayer, poem. I think I was in my poet-as-medicine man phase. What can I say? It happens when you’re 23. I had a part-time job and was devoted to writing. After all these years, I think the poem holds up. I hope you agree. It’s meant to be read out loud to a crowd.—PM


December Canticle

We are love-soaked

We are full empty boats

We are alert for touch

We are orange bars of dawn

We are music in tribal horns

We are imperial conch

We are resurrection

We are contemplation

We are willow sticks

We are beginner’s feet

We are desire that beats

We are the stork

We are big medicine

We are the apricot wren

We are fish on the blocks

We are naked captains

We are ray-fed billions

We are vines that clutch

We are valiant barrels

We are muddy heralds

We are double-helix match

We are new geranium

We are rooster children

We are the latest batch

We are huckaback fabric

We are leather jacket

We are glory bound to hatch

We are street song

We are come-along

We are the cosmic stitch


—Paul Marion (c) 1977, from What Is the City? (2006)