Christmas Eve

My Christmases are fairly secular but this poem always arrests me.

Skating in Harlem, Christmas Day
Cynthia Zarin
To Mary Jo Salter

Beyond the ice-bound stones and bucking trees,
past bewildered Mary, the Meer in snow,
two skating rinks and two black crooked paths

are a battered pair of reading glasses
scratched by the skater’s multiplying math.
Beset, I play this game of tic-tac-toe.

Divide, subtract. Who can tell if love surpasses?
Two naughts we’ve learned make one astonished 0—
a hectic night of goats and compasses.

Folly tells the truth by what it’s not—
one X equals a fall I’d not forgo.
Are ice and fire the integers we’ve got?

Skating backwards tells another story—
the risky star above the freezing town,
a way to walk on water and not drown.

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