Saint Stephen’s Day with the Griffins

By Henri Cole b. 1956 Henri Cole

for Janet and Christopher

     Half-eagle, half-lion, the fabulous
          animal struts, saber-clawed but saintly,
   a candlewicked ornament dangling
from our rickety sugar pine. Butternut
     pudding in our bellies. His reindeer
          and sleigh hurried here and gone—thank God
     for us childless folks. Almost:   the lovelocked
Griffins on the sofa, sockfooted, hearing
     gas and a kiddy heart in her tummy—
          a life more imaginary than real,
     though one is dazzled by gold that fills
the egg unbroken. We feed her crumpets
     and listen again: The lamb’s a hungry
          bugger, even snug from earth’s
     imponderable fury. Tomorrow, in a spurt
by jet I’m home. Clumsy as a puppy
     I’ll scale the flightstairs into the nosecone,
          luggage banging at my sides, enter the egg-
     shaped cabin and await the infrared
climb toward space. Tell me one
     thing true? If I could count the way
          things slip from us: Mother’s fur gloves,
     Sunday’s benediction, the dead gone before us,
love’s rambler on the prairie—all displaced
     as we buckle in our shuttle,
          jetbound on a screaming runway,
     gravity pulling at us castaways,
more mammal than bird, subtle
     leg-weary griffins made manifest,
          arrowing towards home. How do we
     ignore it: the attenuated being
of our age, the bittersweet collapse
     of dominoes mooned around our pine?
           Withered with hatred from his quarter,
     Saint Stephen even at death rolled mercifully over
in high holiness. Sonless, wifeless, nine
     thousand feet from land, I roll the lozenge
          on my tongue, youthful habit for ache
     of any kind, parting a survivor (Wait!),
love rescuing me from the fringe.

Henri Cole, “Saint Stephen’s Day with the Griffins” from The Zoo Wheel of Knowledge (New York:  Alfred A. Knopf, 1989). Copyright © 1989 by Henri Cole. Reprinted with the permission of the author.

Source: The Zoo Wheel of Knowledge (Alfred A. Knopf, 1989)

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Poet Henri Cole b. 1956

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Subjects Love, Activities, Travels & Journeys, Religion, Christianity, The Spiritual, Mythology & Folklore

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 Henri  Cole


Born in Fukuoka, Japan, and raised in Virginia, poet Henri Cole grew up in a household where French, Armenian, and English were spoken. He earned a BA at the College of William and Mary, an MA at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, and an MFA at Columbia University.
In an essay on the influence of Hart Crane’s poetry on his own early development as a poet, Cole speculates on the possibility that “the pain of unsanctioned . . .

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SUBJECT Love, Activities, Travels & Journeys, Religion, Christianity, The Spiritual, Mythology & Folklore

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Poetic Terms Quatrain

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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