After The Sky Had Fallen
Lawrence Raab

At the beginning: a foolish mistake.

At the end the fox eats them all.
After which the thatch
of night surrounds

the lost children, who sometimes
find their way home
and sometimes do not,

while the stars turn into maps
which is how
the wise men were guided.

They set their gifts
in the straw before the manger,
and stepped back.

One of them thought:
But what use can the child have  
for such things?

Yet the firelight loved
those treasures, and would not
leave them alone

until they found their place
in the story. Meanwhile,
the children walk deeper

into the forest. Surely
God will help us, the boy
tells this sister. No,

she replies, the world
has abandoned us.
Whereupon an old woman

steps out of the shadowy trees.
Dear ones, she exclaims,
how thin you are!

Come to my cottage
and I will give you pancakes
and apples. Of course

the children follow her
because they cannot see
she is a terrible witch

who plans to cook them
in the morning, and eat them
for supper. But that night

she tucks them gently
into bed, and kisses them,
just as their mother had.

Or else: a snow-white bird
watches those children
sleeping in the cold forest,

and is touched
by their dreams, and sings
so sweet a song that when

the children wake they believe
this music will guide them
through the great maze of trees

until they arrive at a meadow
where they will look up
to see the familiar stars,

and not far away a little house
so much like home
they cannot help

but think: Surely
we will be happy now.
Lawrence Raab is the author of nine collections of poems, including What We Don’t Know About Each Other, a winner of the National Poetry Series and a Finalist for the National Book Award, Mistaking Each Other for Ghosts, long-listed for the National Book Award, and most recently The Life Beside This One, as well as a collection of essays, Why Don’t We Say What We Mean? A new book of poems, April at the Ruins, will be published in 2022. He is the Harry C. Payne Professor of Poetry Emeritus at Williams College.

Read Lawrence Raab interviewed by Lauren Peat (from Issue 1).


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