Advent One

Kathryn Smith

What struck me about today’s gospel—in addition to the ominous imagery—is that notion that the Lord’s coming will surely happen at night. So what if we stayed awake to keep watch? Would it be possible for any one of us to interpret the signs?

The Insomniac Keeps Watch

The dog grows restless as day
intersects evening. He paces door
to window to door. Clouds obfuscate
sunset, despite its calculated hour.
I will not sleep—not with such a storm
closing in. Time to batten down
the garden. Latch the shutters
against the wind. Pray the maple
holds on to all its branches. Wait.


“I’m sorry, old friend,” I tell the dog
as I rouse him from the edge of forgetting.
At 1 a.m., a moment’s calm. Leashed
and hooded, we practice discerning
among the winds. Will the rustling
arrival of angels feel like this upward
swelling, sky cloistering us in something

close to revelation? Stoplights begin
their chain reaction, a yellow pulse
pulling west toward town,

mimic of stars, an earthbound
luminosity too dim to guide us.


Close to dawn, the television
is infomercials and weather maps. A product
for every ailment. A model for predicting
every natural destruction. But what
of the supernatural? I consider
the meteorologist, whose job it is to know
both the day and the hour of every
atmospheric phenomenon. Can a scale
that tracks the wind and its trajectory
interpret beyond the ionosphere, discern
cirrocumulus from seraphimic? The man
at the map tells us the moment, accurate
within minutes, that the thunderstorm

will strike. When it will cease.

The dog circles once, twice, three times.


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