Edited and introduced by Wesley McNair, Maine poet laureate.

Walt Allan of Falmouth chose today’s favorite poem from a past column, writing that what’s important to him in a poem is “its ability to make a connection through surprise,” as happened when he was reading “The Silent Seers,” which, he says, “snuck up on me.”

The Silent Seers

By J. Barrie Shepherd

Of all the witnesses

around that holy manger

perhaps it was the animals

who saw best what lay ahead,

for they had paced the aching roads,

slept in the wet and hungry fields,

known the sharp sting of sticks

and thorns and curses,

endured the constant bruise

of burdens not their own,

the tendency of men to use

and then discard rather than meet

and pay the debt of gratitude.

For them the future also held

the knacker’s rope, the flayer’s blade,

the tearing of their bodies

for the sparing of a race.

In the shadows of that stable

might it be his warmest welcome

lay within their quiet comprehending gaze?

Take Heart: A Conversation in Poetry is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Poem copyright © 2012 J. Barrie Shepherd. Reprinted from “Between Mirage and Miracle,” Wipf and Stock Press, 2002, by permission of Wipf and Stock Publishers, wipfandstock.com. Please note that the column is no longer accepting submissions; comments about it may be directed to Gibson Fay-LeBlanc at [email protected] or 228-8263. “Take Heart: More Poems from Maine,” a new anthology collecting the final 21/2 years of this column, will be available in early January from Down East Books.