Every window in the big house
blazed, brilliant with beeswax candles,
Murano chandeliers, torches
in sconces. Wayfarers across the snow,
their feet near to freezing,
peered through frozen branches
                        at this festival of lights.

Hunger, misery, the cold in their
extremities, they fancied they could smell—
these wanderers—the boar
roasting on a spit over the fire,
hear the fiddle and psaltery, the rustle
of taffeta, the clacking of dancers’ heels
                        on the parquet floor.

The bloodhounds that might have been
whistled up to harry them
off the grounds
snored in the entrance hall,
having gnawed on bones
the wayfarers would have fallen on
                        like dogs themselves.

Why am I telling you this? It’s certain
those at the top of fortune’s wheel
will never tire of feasting and making merry.
As for the poor, they are as Jesus said
they always are. Our headlights illuminate them
along the garbage-strewn freeway
                        in their tents and lean-tos.

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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 42 Number 4, on page 36
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