I’m told these holidays are for wee ones,
or for those people who wish they still were.
I know some adults want more than just ski runs,
where season’s warmth’s overcome by chill brrr.
And maybe that’s why I never skied much,
preferring the embrace of family.
Okay, maybe we’d glide on sleds and such,
but home’s hearth we could reach quite handily.
We all grow up and make new homes someday,
with distance ‘tween ourselves and our own.
But even if we’re alone that one day,
we can still reach out and not just by phone.
Christmas makes All our sister or brother,
so why can’t we share with one another?
I know, corny. But if I can’t be a little corny, schmaltzy and sweet this time of year, when can I? And yes, You (You know who you are), I did make this for You. Maybe you’ll find some more from your secret Poetic Santa soon.
Tonight my warm chair wrapped
itself around me in a room
illuminated by a TV
and thoughts of Christmases
I missed, though albums
of photos prove I was there.
Over in the corner stands
the new Christmas tree,
bedazzled in ornaments
of new gold, like Hanukkah gelt,
and in old silver, shiny
and cold as a dead fish
on some frozen shore.
It has yet to be lit
for more than a minute since
that angel alit on its tiptop.
So I withdrew from my chair’s embrace,
crossing the room to plug it in.
But out the window, I saw how
the moon had risen above the trees
and how it ignited swirling breaths
of snow that danced in the dark
like Van Gogh’s stars over Arles.
And above them actual stars
roamed in their courses,
as if looking for Bethlehem
or maybe even Albany.
In that moment, with stellar
guidance from light that traveled
for two thousand years,
traveled past all those nights
I spent without any Sleep to knit up
my ravell’d sleeve of care, woke
warm memories of Christmases past.
Of winking lights in blue eyes
and glittering packages as full of love
as they were knitted sweaters.
The clouds slide across the sky
like crib sheets being flapped flat
and floating down upon the place
where a child will sleep.
Between them you see the room
colored a blue distinct to winter.
Not so deep as a spring Carolina sky,
nor the chill azure
the northern firmament glows in autumn.
Between the gossamer sheets
waiting to drop their crystalline
whiteness, blooms a blue so bright
you think you might believe
you can see right through it.
But to where? At whom?
Maybe for that child waiting
for his moment to rest upon
man’s simple crib called Faith.
The visitors arrive like Magi, some bringing gifts that likely have as little practical use to the recipient than something he or she might wear to their own funeral. The living room buzzes with conversations, small talk about universal themes: family, health, weather, the ghosts of Christmases past. You busy yourself in the kitchen, preparing the too-big meal for the too-anxious crowd that sits on your mismatched batch of chairs, wondering at the boxes beneath the tree. After dinner, their hunger sated but not their appetites, each family member, in turn, receives his or her share of the under-tree giftscape, leaving behind the debris of the season’s here-and-gone tornado of emotions and memories. You scan the scene, moving from one rosy-cheeked child of God to the next, each resting within their nest of torn wrapping paper, a display of joy and excess that’s often confused you, dipped you in anxiety and guilt, burned your fingers and laid waste to purse and parlor. That’s when you realize the gifts given and received tonight weren’t wrapped in paper and bows, maybe weren’t so practical but always will be the most essential. The greatest gifts have always been the giving and the givers.
With Christmas only a week away, these thoughts dawned upon me in another pre-sunup wake up call.
The Santas have come
to the malls again,
carried in by the warm breeze
from ovens opening to release
the Thanksgiving turkey
to its joyous greeting and
Black Friday leftovers demise.
These red-clad stand-ins aren’t
really the jolly one, though.
Just like Teddy Bears aren’t
named Teddy and definitely
aren’t bears. Not really.
Well, they are in the imaginations
of children and those who wish
to hold onto memories from childhoods
too early lost to revelations
from the older ones who still
feel anger about losing theirs.
I wonder if the shopping mall,
sidewalk and Salvation Army
Santas enjoy their roles as
symbols of something lost
or soon enough so. Just as
they’ll lose their jobs
come the 25th of December.
If I was one of them, sitting
on my photo prop throne or
ringing my alms-seeking bells,
I’d prefer to think I’m grasping
a month in my life, mere minutes
over 30 days, perhaps as some
child’s lifetime memory of something
pureand good. Something greater than
just a man behind a beard.
British and German troops meeting in No-Mans’s Land during the unofficial truce.
Liebe Mama, the letter began when she opened its mud spattered
paper, unfinished, like the life that penned it. On the other side
of The Channel it read Dearest Mum. And then their stories began
of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day when the guns ceased
their booming bursts for that time and young men
peeked over the mole-run, rat-hole front lines
with no fear of dying without a head to send with their bodies,
home to Liebe Mama and Dearest Mum.
They told of going over the top clutching tobacco and biscuits,
candy and sausages, instead of Enfields or Mausers,
to trade season’s greetings instead of death.
And carols were heard instead of the screams of the shells,
the wails of the wounded, unanswered calls to Mama and Mum.
But these were mud soldiers, the ones whose bodies would fertilize
the poppies one day, perhaps, when church bells would ring
for Christmas services and not to bury mein junge or my boy.
It’s said the clean uniforms at the rear called a cease
to the cease fires in later years, because such fraternization
was not in keeping with victory for King and Country.
And so barely again did boys in Khaki or Grau join hands
in the brotherhood of men who looked alike covered
in the mud of Flanders or to the addressees of these,
their last letters home. For after the final strains of
Stille Nacht, there’d come no more silent nights except
where now poppies grow, between the crosses, row on row.
The Christmas truce, Weihnachtsfrieden in German, was a series of widespread but unofficial ceasefires along the Western Front around Christmas 1914. In the week leading up to the holiday, German and British soldiers crossed trenches to exchange seasonal greetings and talk. In areas, men from both sides ventured into no man’s land on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to mingle and exchange food and souvenirs. Maybe this free write poem is a reminder that it can be done, if only for a short while, with hope for something more permanent someday.
He could sense the holiday
in his nose more than
in his heart, but his nose stood
more blatantly exposed
to the environment than
his figurative ticker.
It’s not that he was blind
to all the lights and crowds and
super sales that assailed his vision
whenever he peeked above
his snow-wet shoe tops.
But the aroma of gingerbread
and evergreen braided with
a certain chill on the air
from the north by east or west,
–it didn’t matter–they all
brought forth flurries
of memories from his past,
ones that attached themselves as
“pleasant” and “family” and “home”
to his madly visual mind.
He grinned a childish grin,
pulled his hand from its
warm flannel resting place
close to his literal ticker and
touched the cold skin on
the part of him inhaling
all those Decembers past.
Cold felt the warm and
warm felt the cold and
together they awakened
what was always that certain
joy in his world-frozen soul.