Starfish on Calvary


Suspended from a nail,

a brown, spiny starfish glistens with gloss,

two arms, two legs, spread wide

the fifth, a body and face, like a Christ-man on the

cross. Tenderly, thumb and index finger trembling,

she lifts him into my outstretched palm


"Mom, is this a real starfish?"

She is strangely calm.


Black painted buttons shine off his diskplate

on the undersurface where his mouth

once slurped up food particles

funneled in synchrony

through long, sweeping tentacles

in perfect, radial symmetry.


A tiny starfish, a baby Santa holds her hostage

she sighs, traces outlines, in and out, five times.

How can I console my child?

"You know, echinoderms regenerate.

One arm and disk grows back

into a whole new starfish!"


Underneath a miniature pine

fat, jolly guys, arms outstretched,

in caps, gloves and black buttons,

consort with laughing snow girls

dressed in tantalizing white

in a red light district of Bethlehem.


She looks at her feet,

at the basket of crucified starfish

awaiting reincarnation into ornaments, magnets,

she looks in my eyes,

her face implacable, unyielding,

and then -- she smiles -- in compassion for me.

Pub Date: 12/23/96

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