Way down south I’m watching them,
the Swedes at Advent with “Lucia”;
blonde children in a double file
trailing in an edge of summer.
The leading girl, perhaps thirteen,
wears steadily her crown of candles.
They weave their way through northern chords
preceded by a song from Naples
boatmen sing out on the bay.
St Lucy was an early martyr
who, having had her eyes put out,
moves north to ease the arctic darkness.
I hear the half-familiar hymns
sung in words I do not know.
I relish their geometries.
I do not share their faith although
I understand the shape it gives:
the sudden star, the three wise men,
the Christ child and the virgin mother,
the “no room at the inn” again.
To hear it in a foreign tongue
from children troubles disbelief.
The narrative is archetypal.
I wrestle with its sweet relief.