‘The Western Star’ by Jack DesBois The Society July 15, 2021 Beauty, Culture, Poetry, Readings 12 Comments . “A star!” the wise man shouted, “Look, a star!” forgetting the hour and his solitude, or else too overjoyed to heed the time— then, starting at the ghostly echo through the tower’s highest chamber, shook with fright and with a jolting hand silenced his lips. Nobody heard him; still the land lay sleeping. The night’s new guardian, beaming from the West, shone quite unnoticed by the city, lit now as it was with strange and wondrous light: watery and faint as a second moon, but kinder than the first; more full of promise, of life, of some strange thing the king knew not. And in the quiet of the night he stood, his frozen face turned up to meet the star, as overwhelmed with wonder as with fright, with joy as doubt, not comprehending all the silent beacon spoke in its radiant touch. And then, as clear as bells that mark the hour, that would not ring the day for hours yet, the king in awe could swear the star did speak! Aloud, with voice as plain as the king’s own, or yours, or mine. It sang into the night— or else it was the shadows speaking songs, as shadows sometimes do to day-worn souls in search of sleep before the dawn; but shadows, marked the king, speak soft and sinister: their whispered invitations tug the holes within our hearts and fill them with despair. This was no hissing phantom calling him, but rather, clear and bright, a ringing voice with penetrating radiance as befit the warmth of that bright light hung in the West. One word it spoke, one word that lingered in the dust-flecked rays of midnight crossing through the tower’s highest chamber. “Come,” it said, and that was all.. . The above is an excerpt of the complete work, which can be found here. . . Jack DesBois is a singer, actor, and storyteller. He gives annual Epiphany season performances of “The Western Star,” which he wrote in 2016. He self-published a chapbook of short poems in 2018. As a singer, Jack has had the good fortune to solo in several of the great works of Baroque Oratorio, including Handel’s Messiah (Bass) and Esther (Haman) and J.S. Bach’s St. John Passion (Jesus). Jack lives in Topsfield, Massachusetts. NOTE: The Society considers this page, where your poetry resides, to be your residence as well, where you may invite family, friends, and others to visit. Feel free to treat this page as your home and remove anyone here who disrespects you. Simply send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Put “Remove Comment” in the subject line and list which comments you would like removed. The Society does not endorse any views expressed in individual poems or comments and reserves the right to remove any comments to maintain the decorum of this website and the integrity of the Society. Please see our Comments Policy here. Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window) 12 Responses Brian Yapko July 15, 2021 Jack, this is a beautiful poem which is fairly radiant with love and love of Christ. Your blank-verse depiction of the Magi and the appearance of the Christmas star is both skilled and deeply touching. I especially appreciated hearing your nicely-performed extended version on the attached video. I have a soft spot for bringing Bible stories and characters to poetic life and you have delivered admirably. I look forward to seeing more of your work! Reply Jack DesBois July 28, 2021 Thank you, Brian! I’m glad the poem’s love (I think of it as light) touched you. I will definitely submit more poetry to SCP, though I’m afraid this one is my most worthy offering to a community steeped in poetic skill and insight. Writing The Western Star was an odd process, involving very little revision – it “came to me” in small chunks over the course of a year. “Watership Down” author Richard Adams once said that after the overwhelming success of his debut novel, he spent the rest of his life trying to become the man who wrote “Watership Down”. My experience writing poetry since The Western Star has been somewhat similar. But I will submit more poetry, and let you all be the judge… Reply Paul Freeman July 15, 2021 An amazing accomplishment and extremely well read. Reply Jack DesBois July 28, 2021 Thank you, Paul! This is a poem for listening to – like Homer must have been, I like to fancy – so I’m glad you took the time to listen. Reply Peg July 15, 2021 So very, very beautiful… Praise GOD! Reply Jack DesBois July 28, 2021 Praise God indeed! Reply Margaret Coats July 15, 2021 Jack, what a marvel of composition and dramatic performance! I only got through the videos for Part I, but I hope to return and hear more. In Part I, I was most impressed by description of the Holy Face present in or promised by the star. This face, as you so quickly recount, contains all the faces in creation, including the faces of such things as the stones under our feet. “If they had faces,” as you say in emphatic understatement! Reply Jack DesBois July 28, 2021 Thank you, Margaret. The “face of nations” is one of my favorite passages as well. I’ve tried reaching out to visual artists to collaborate on an illustrated edition of the poem, with no luck so far. I’d love to see that face! But perhaps it’s best left to our imaginations, in the end. Reply C.B. Anderson July 18, 2021 I think in some ways you got in your own way. Throughout, there was a tendency toward wordiness that left me high and dry. I like a crisp exposition that’s laconic and free from circumlocutions. Any point you’ve made twice does not need to be expressed a third time. We all get the significance of the Epiphany, and the point need not be belabored. I don’t live in Vermont, so I can’t say how the performance of this work might have affected me, had I attended in person. Reply Jack DesBois July 28, 2021 Thank you for your candor, Mr. Anderson. You’re absolutely right that The Western Star’s poetry is far from crisp and laconic. My defense is that the poem is meant for a listening, rather than a reading, audience, and it is meant to wash over its audience for an hour and fifteen minutes. Dense poetry is best taken in small doses. At the risk of committing heresy, I invoke Gertrude Stein, who relaxed her audience out of their fear of missing a word or thought by repeating and repeating everything. At the risk of committing another heresy, I suggest Homer did the same thing. After five years living with this poem, I’m not sure I quite get the significance of the Epiphany… Reply Lucia Haase July 20, 2021 This is so beautifully expressed. Thank you. Lucia Reply Jack DesBois July 28, 2021 You’re welcome, Lucia. Thank you for reading. Reply Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYour email address will not be published.CommentName* Email* Website Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Notify me of new posts by email. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.