The three-year-olds stand
on little steps at the end
of the lunchroom, all sparkling
in their holiday best.
They fidget and chitter
like thoroughbreds in the gate,
waiting for the flag to drop.
As their teacher’s hand
rises and falls in time,
they shout piles of sing-song
sounds that ring of
“We Wish You a Mary Kiss-muss.”
On they gallop to the finish line
of “and a happ-pee noo year!”
Some arrive ahead of teacher’s pace,
some lag a step, yet they all shine
like Christmas stars, not noticing how
they reflect the audience’s beaming.
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 town’s turned all white
with the first December snow —
Useless to fight, I know
I awoke to find
the ground wrapped in swaddling clothes —
Snowy rind. Red nose
the backyard an empty page —
Snow in my boot – rage
Christmas weeks away,
the new tree arrayed with lights —
I pray. Fam’ly fights
Santa doesn’t come,
to some kids in my old ‘hood —
Bum, they were e’en good
What if ol’ Christmas
didn’t come around one year?
Bad business, I fear
Shoveled all morning
and now my back’s all janky.
Warning! I’m cranky!
Because of my current creative speed-bumps, I thought I’d go back to the start of it all for Poet Joe–haiku. Of course, knowing me, you’d expect at least a little wrinkle. Yeah, I tried to rhyme the first two lines within the five measly syllables of the final line. Mission (sorta) accomplished.
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.
There’s a Christmas tree up there
behind the altar–closer than
the Nativity scene to the right–
a mixed message in a season
full of messages. The oversized
angel atop the twelve-footer is
running cover for keeping
the Christ close to the Mass
in this church’s Christmas.
But she’s just one more angel
in a hall echoing with them.
They all look down upon the rows
of sinners and saints who
look up from time to time
searching for solace,
or salvation or something
I’m pretty sure I’ll never realize.
The angels and some kneelers
look down on tree-topper and me, too.
That’s how it’ll always be here–
house rules, home vs. visitors.
That might be why Christmas Angel and I
only show up when we’re called to.
It’s how we keep from collecting
too much of their dust on our wings.