American Life in Poetry: Column 195


Here is a poem, much like a prayer, in which the Michigan poet Conrad Hilberry asks for no more than a little flare of light, an affirmation, at the end of a long, cold Christmas day.

Christmas Night

Let midnight gather up the wind   
and the cry of tires on bitter snow.   
Let midnight call the cold dogs home,   
sleet in their fur—last one can blow   

the streetlights out.   If children sleep   
after the day’s unfoldings, the wheel   
of gifts and griefs, may their breathing   
ease the strange hollowness we feel.   

Let midnight draw whoever’s left   
to the grate where a burnt-out log unrolls   
low mutterings of smoke until   
a small fire wakes in its crib of coals.

We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright © 2008 by Conrad Hilberry, whose most recent book of poetry is After-Music, Wayne State University Press, 2008. Poem reprinted from “The Hudson Review,” Vol. 60, no. 4, Winter 2008, by permission of Conrad Hilberry. Introduction copyright © 2020 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.