Of course you’ve heard of “El Niño.” And you know that it refers to the Pacific Ocean’s warming spells, which can cause heavy rains and even cyclones in the tropics. But did you know that El Niño (Spanish for “the boy”) is so named because it occurs around Christmas time? And did you know that there’s a sister phenomenon, “La Niña”—a cooling ocean effect that also causes major climate events? In her poem “Advent,” Ava Leavell Haymon takes these climatological facts and brilliantly conflates them with the coming of the Child which we await during the Advent season. “El Niño crawls in the manger, time runs out / El Niño rocks himself dry on the edge of a continent.” Then “the weather channel shows us rain / Angels proclaim in vain…” This Boy’s coming will not evoke the sweet sentiments of Christmas cards. No, it brings cosmological turbulence: ”Comets snuff out in dirty skies: Lovers of chaos, / computers roll back their zero eyes The trumpet cries…” We pray to Los Niños to “spare us,” but their answer— “We have come for the children” — has a sinister undercurrent. That “for” is intentionally ambiguous. It could mean “for the sake of,” which is the usual Christmas message. But “come for” could also mean “to take the children away,” which a killing cyclone will certainly do. Here is a poem that makes us think twice (or three times or more) about what Advent brings.
—Peggy Rosenthal [Read more…]