“Out of the Ash” by William Everson (poem)

Phoenix (Aberdeen Bestiary)
Phoenix, from the Aberdeen Bestiary (Aberdeen University Library MS 24, fol. 56r), England, ca. 1200

Solstice of the dark, the absolute
Zero of the year. Praise God
Who comes for us again, our lives
Pulled to their fisted knot,
Cinched tight with cold, drawn
To the heart’s constriction; our faces
Seamed like clinkers in the grate,
Hands like tongs—Praise God
That Christ, phoenix immortal,
Springs up again from solstice ash,
Drives his equatorial ray
Into our cloud, emblazons
Our stiff brow, fries
Our chill tears. Come Christ,
Most gentle and throat-pulsing Bird!
O come, sweet Child! Be gladness
In our church! Waken with anthems
Our bare rafters! O phoenix
Forever! Virgin-wombed
And burning in the dark,
Be born! Be born!

From The Veritable Years: Poems 1949–1966 by William Everson (Brother Antoninus). Copyright © 1998 by Jude Everson and the William Everson Literary Estate. Used with the permission of Black Sparrow Books, an imprint of David R. Godine, Publisher, Inc., godine.com.

William Everson (1912–1994) was an American poet who gained fame in the San Francisco literary renaissance of the 1950s, being classified as part of the Beat movement. Deeply influenced by the poetry of Robinson Jeffers, he wrote about the California landscape, nonviolence, the biblical narrative, and erotic love. He was married twice before converting to Catholicism in 1948, and in 1951 he entered the Dominican Order as Brother Antoninus. However, to pursue a romantic relationship with the woman who would become his third wife, he renounced his monastic vows in 1969, returning to secular life but maintaining his Christian faith and his poetic vocation. He also wrote literary criticism, taught at university, and founded a small press. His collected poems are published in three volumes.

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