Sandra Cisneros |
December 24th and we’re through again.
This time for good I know because I didn’t
throw you out — and anyway we waved.
No angry doors.
We folded clothes and went
our separate ways.
You left behind that flannel shirt
of yours I liked but remembered to take
Where are you tonight?
Richard, it’s Christmas Eve again
and old ghosts come back home.
I’m sitting by the Christmas tree
wondering where did we go wrong.
Okay, we didn’t work, and all
memories to tell you the truth aren’t good.
But sometimes there were good times.
Love was good.
I loved your crooked sleep
beside me and never dreamed afraid.
There should be stars for great wars
There ought to be awards
and plenty of champagne for the survivors.
After all the years of degradations,
the several holidays of failure,
there should be something
to commemorate the pain.
Someday we’ll forget that great Brazil disaster.
Till then, Richard, I wish you well.
I wish you love affairs and plenty of hot water,
and women kinder than I treated you.
I forget the reason, but I loved you once,
Maybe in this season, drunk
and sentimental, I’m willing to admit
a part of me, crazed and kamikaze,
ripe for anarchy, loves still.
Ogden Nash |
In Baltimore there lived a boy.
He wasn't anybody's joy.
Although his name was Jabez Dawes,
His character was full of flaws.
In school he never led his classes,
He hid old ladies' reading glasses,
His mouth was open when he chewed,
And elbows to the table glued.
He stole the milk of hungry kittens,
And walked through doors marked NO ADMITTANCE.
He said he acted thus because
There wasn't any Santa Claus.
Another trick that tickled Jabez
Was crying 'Boo' at little babies.
He brushed his teeth, they said in town,
Sideways instead of up and down.
Yet people pardoned every sin,
And viewed his antics with a grin,
Till they were told by Jabez Dawes,
'There isn't any Santa Claus!'
Deploring how he did behave,
His parents swiftly sought their grave.
They hurried through the portals pearly,
And Jabez left the funeral early.
Like whooping cough, from child to child,
He sped to spread the rumor wild:
'Sure as my name is Jabez Dawes
There isn't any Santa Claus!'
Slunk like a weasel of a marten
Through nursery and kindergarten,
Whispering low to every tot,
'There isn't any, no there's not!'
The children wept all Christmas eve
And Jabez chortled up his sleeve.
No infant dared hang up his stocking
For fear of Jabez' ribald mocking.
He sprawled on his untidy bed,
Fresh malice dancing in his head,
When presently with scalp-a-tingling,
Jabez heard a distant jingling;
He heard the crunch of sleigh and hoof
Crisply alighting on the roof.
What good to rise and bar the door?
A shower of soot was on the floor.
What was beheld by Jabez Dawes?
The fireplace full of Santa Claus!
Then Jabez fell upon his knees
With cries of 'Don't,' and 'Pretty Please.
He howled, 'I don't know where you read it,
But anyhow, I never said it!'
'Jabez' replied the angry saint,
'It isn't I, it's you that ain't.
Although there is a Santa Claus,
There isn't any Jabez Dawes!'
Said Jabez then with impudent vim,
'Oh, yes there is, and I am him!
Your magic don't scare me, it doesn't'
And suddenly he found he wasn't!
From grimy feet to grimy locks,
Jabez became a Jack-in-the-box,
An ugly toy with springs unsprung,
Forever sticking out his tongue.
The neighbors heard his mournful squeal;
They searched for him, but not with zeal.
No trace was found of Jabez Dawes,
Which led to thunderous applause,
And people drank a loving cup
And went and hung their stockings up.
All you who sneer at Santa Claus,
Beware the fate of Jabez Dawes,
The saucy boy who mocked the saint.
Donner and Blitzen licked off his paint.
John Betjeman |
The bells of waiting Advent ring,
The Tortoise stove is lit again
And lamp-oil light across the night
Has caught the streaks of winter rain
In many a stained-glass window sheen
From Crimson Lake to Hookers Green.
The holly in the windy hedge
And round the Manor House the yew
Will soon be stripped to deck the ledge,
The altar, font and arch and pew,
So that the villagers can say
'The church looks nice' on Christmas Day.
Provincial Public Houses blaze,
Corporation tramcars clang,
On lighted tenements I gaze,
Where paper decorations hang,
And bunting in the red Town Hall
Says 'Merry Christmas to you all'.
And London shops on Christmas Eve
Are strung with silver bells and flowers
As hurrying clerks the City leave
To pigeon-haunted classic towers,
And marbled clouds go scudding by
The many-steepled London sky.
And girls in slacks remember Dad,
And oafish louts remember Mum,
And sleepless children's hearts are glad.
And Christmas-morning bells say 'Come!'
Even to shining ones who dwell
Safe in the Dorchester Hotel.
And is it true,
This most tremendous tale of all,
Seen in a stained-glass window's hue,
A Baby in an ox's stall ?
The Maker of the stars and sea
Become a Child on earth for me ?
And is it true ? For if it is,
No loving fingers tying strings
Around those tissued fripperies,
The sweet and silly Christmas things,
Bath salts and inexpensive scent
And hideous tie so kindly meant,
No love that in a family dwells,
No carolling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells
Can with this single Truth compare -
That God was man in Palestine
And lives today in Bread and Wine.
Edwin Arlington Robinson |
He took a frayed hat from his head,
And “Peace on Earth” was what he said.
“A morsel out of what you’re worth,
And there we have it: Peace on Earth.
Not much, although a little more
Than what there was on earth before
I’m as you see, I’m Ichabod,—
But never mind the ways I’ve trod;
I’m sober now, so help me God.
I could not pass the fellow by.
“Do you believe in God?” said I;
“And is there to be Peace on Earth?”
“Tonight we celebrate the birth,”
He said, “of One who died for men;
The Son of God, we say.
Your God, or mine? I’d make you laugh
Were I to tell you even half
That I have learned of mine today
Where yours would hardly seem to stay.
Could He but follow in and out
Some anthropoids I know about,
The god to whom you may have prayed
Might see a world He never made.
“Your words are flowing full,” said I;
“But yet they give me no reply;
Your fountain might as well be dry.
“A wiser One than you, my friend,
Would wait and hear me to the end;
And for his eyes a light would shine
Through this unpleasant shell of mine
That in your fancy makes of me
A Christmas curiosity.
All right, I might be worse than that;
And you might now be lying flat;
I might have done it from behind,
And taken what there was to find.
Don’t worry, for I’m not that kind.
‘Do I believe in God?’ Is that
The price tonight of a new hat?
Has he commanded that his name
Be written everywhere the same?
Have all who live in every place
Identified his hidden face?
Who knows but he may like as well
My story as one you may tell?
And if he show me there be Peace
On Earth, as there be fields and trees
Outside a jail-yard, am I wrong
If now I sing him a new song?
Your world is in yourself, my friend,
For your endurance to the end;
And all the Peace there is on Earth
Is faith in what your world is worth,
And saying, without any lies,
Your world could not be otherwise.
“One might say that and then be shot,”
I told him; and he said: “Why not?”
I ceased, and gave him rather more
Than he was counting of my store.
“And since I have it, thanks to you,
Don’t ask me what I mean to do,”
“Believe that even I
Would rather tell the truth than lie—
On Christmas Eve.
No matter why.
His unshaved, educated face,
His inextinguishable grace.
And his hard smile, are with me still,
Deplore the vision as I will;
For whatsoever he be at,
So droll a derelict as that
Should have at least another hat.
Anne Sexton |
Oh sharp diamond, my mother!
I could not count the cost
of all your faces, your moods--
that present that I lost.
Sweet girl, my deathbed,
my jewel-fingered lady,
your portrait flickered all night
by the bulbs of the tree.
Your face as calm as the moon
over a mannered sea,
presided at the family reunion,
the twelve grandchildren
you used to wear on your wrist,
a three-months-old baby,
a fat check you never wrote,
the red-haired toddler who danced the twist,
your aging daughters, each one a wife,
each one talking to the family cook,
each one avoiding your portrait,
each one aping your life.
Later, after the party,
after the house went to bed,
I sat up drinking the Christmas brandy,
watching your picture,
letting the tree move in and out of focus.
The bulbs vibrated.
They were a halo over your forehead.
Then they were a beehive,
blue, yellow, green, red;
each with its own juice, each hot and alive
stinging your face.
But you did not move.
I continued to watch, forcing myself,
waiting, inexhaustible, thirty-five.
I wanted your eyes, like the shadows
of two small birds, to change.
But they did not age.
The smile that gathered me in, all wit,
all charm, was invincible.
Hour after hour I looked at your face
but I could not pull the roots out of it.
Then I watched how the sun hit your red sweater, your withered neck,
your badly painted flesh-pink skin.
You who led me by the nose, I saw you as you were.
Then I thought of your body
as one thinks of murder--
Then I said Mary--
Mary, Mary, forgive me
and then I touched a present for the child,
the last I bred before your death;
and then I touched my breast
and then I touched the floor
and then my breast again as if,
somehow, it were one of yours.
Bliss Carman |
TO the assembled folk
At great St.
Young Brother Amiel on Christmas Eve;
I give you joy, my friends,
That as the round year ends,
We meet once more for gladness by God’s leave.
On other festal days
For penitence or praise
Or prayer we meet, or fullness of thanksgiving;
To-night we calendar
The rising of that star
Which lit the old world with new joy of living.
Ah, we disparage still
The Tidings of Good Will,
Discrediting Love’s gospel now as then!
And with the verbal creed
That God is love indeed,
Who dares make Love his god before all men?
Shall we not, therefore, friends,
Resolve to make amends
To that glad inspiration of the heart;
To grudge not, to cast out
Selfishness, malice, doubt,
Anger and fear; and for the better part,
To love so much, so well,
The spirit cannot tell
The range and sweep of her own boundary!
There is no period
Between the soul and God;
Love is the tide, God the eternal sea.
To-day we walk by love;
To strive is not enough,
Save against greed and ignorance and might.
We apprehend peace comes
Not with the roll of drums,
But in the still processions of the night.
And we perceive, not awe
But love is the great law
That binds the world together safe and whole.
The splendid planets run
Their courses in the sun;
Love is the gravitation of the soul.
In the profound unknown,
Illumined, fair, and lone,
Each star is set to shimmer in its place.
In the profound divine
Each soul is set to shine,
And its unique appointed orbit trace.
There is no near nor far,
Where glorious Algebar
Swings round his mighty circuit through the night,
Yet where without a sound
The winged seed comes to ground,
And the red leaf seems hardly to alight.
One force, one lore, one need
For satellite and seed,
In the serene benignity for all.
Letting her time-glass run
With star-dust, sun by sun,
In Nature’s thought there is no great nor small.
There is no far nor near
Within the spirit’s sphere.
The summer sunset’s scarlet-yellow wings
Are tinged with the same dye
That paints the tulip’s ply.
And what is colour but the soul of things?
(The earth was without form;
God moulded it with storm,
Ice, flood, and tempest, gleaming tint and hue;
Lest it should come to ill
For lack of spirit still,
He gave it colour,—let the love shine through.
Of old, men said, ‘Sin not;
By every line and jot
Ye shall abide; man’s heart is false and vile.
Christ said, ‘By love alone
In man’s heart is God known;
Obey the word no falsehood can defile.
And since that day we prove
Only how great is love,
Nor to this hour its greatness half believe.
For to what other power
Will life give equal dower,
Or chaos grant one moment of reprieve!
Look down the ages’ line,
Where slowly the divine
Evinces energy, puts forth control;
See mighty love alone
Transmuting stock and stone,
Infusing being, helping sense and soul.
And what is energy,
In-working, which bids be
The starry pageant and the life of earth?
What is the genesis
Of every joy and bliss,
Each action dared, each beauty brought to birth?
What hangs the sun on high?
What swells the growing rye?
What bids the loons cry on the Northern lake?
What stirs in swamp and swale,
When April winds prevail,
And all the dwellers of the ground awake?…
What lurks in the deep gaze
Of the old wolf? Amaze,
Hope, recognition, gladness, anger, fear.
But deeper than all these
Love muses, yearns, and sees,
And is the self that does not change nor veer.
Not love of self alone,
Struggle for lair and bone,
But self-denying love of mate and young,
Love that is kind and wise,
Knows trust and sacrifice,
And croons the old dark universal tongue.
And who has understood
Our brothers of the wood,
Save he who puts off guile and every guise
Of violence,—made truce
With panther, bear, and moose,
As beings like ourselves whom love makes wise?
For they, too, do love’s will,
Our lesser clansmen still;
The House of Many Mansions holds us all;
Courageous, glad and hale,
They go forth on the trail,
Hearing the message, hearkening to the call.
Open the door to-night
Within your heart, and light
The lantern of love there to shine afar.
On a tumultuous sea
Some straining craft, maybe,
With bearings lost, shall sight love’s silver star.
Robert William Service |
My folks think I'm a serving maid
Each time I visit home;
They do not dream I ply a trade
As old as Greece or Rome;
For if they found I'd fouled their name
And was not white as snow,
I'm sure that they would die of shame .
Please, God, they'll never know.
I clean the paint from off my face,
In sober black I dress;
Of coquetry I leave no trace
To give them vague distress;
And though it causes me a pang
To play such sorry tricks,
About my neck I meekly hang
A silver crufix.
And so with humble step I go
Just like a child again,
To greet their Christmas candle-glow,
A soul without a stain;
So well I play my contrite part
I make myself believe
There's not a stain within my heart
On Holy Christmas Eve.
With double natures we are vext,
And what we feel, we are;
A saint one day, a sinner next,
A red light or a star;
A prostitute or proselyte,
And in each part sincere:
So I become a vestal white
One week in every year.
For this I say without demur
From out life's lurid lore,
Each righteous women has in her
A tincture of the whore;
While every harpy of the night,
As I have learned too well;
Holds in her heart a heaven-light
To ransom her from hell.
So I'll go home and sweep and dust;
I'll make the kitchen fire,
And be a model of daughters just
The best they could desire;
I'll fondle them and cook their food,
And Mother dear will say:
"Thank God! my darling is as good
As when she went away.
But after New Year's Day I'll fill
My bag and though they grieve,
I'll bid them both good-bye until
Another Christmas Eve;
And then .
a knock upon the door:
I'll find them waiting there,
And angel-like I'll come once more
In answer to their prayer.
Then Lo! one night when candle-light
Gleams mystic on the snow,
And music swells of Christmas bells,
I'll come, no more to go:
The old folks need my love and care,
Their gold shall gild my dross,
And evermore my breast shall bear
My little silver cross.
Robert William Service |
Only a Leather Medal, hanging there on the wall,
Dingy and frayed and faded, dusty and worn and old;
Yet of my humble treasures I value it most of all,
And I wouldn't part with that medal if you gave me its weight in gold.
Read the inscription: For Valour - presented to Millie MacGee.
Ah! how in mem'ry it takes me back to the "auld lang syne,"
When Millie and I were sweethearts, and fair as a flower was she -
Yet little I dreamt that her bosom held the heart of heroine.
Listen! I'll tell you about it.
An orphan was Millie MacGee,
Living with Billie her brother, under the Yukon sky,
Sam, her pa, was cremated in the winter of nineteen-three,
As duly and truly related by the pen of an author guy.
A cute little kid was Billie, solemn and silken of hair,
The image of Jackie Coogan in the days before movies could speak.
Devoted to him was Millie, with more than a mother's care,
And happy were they together in their cabin on Bunker Creek.
'Twas only a mining village, where hearts are simple and true,
And Millie MacGee was schoolma'am, loved and admired by all;
Yet no one dreamed for a moment she'd do what she dared to do -
But wait and I'll try to tell you, as clear as I can recall.
Christmas Eve in the school-house! A scene of glitter and glee;
The children eager and joyful; parents and neighbours too;
Right in the forefront, Millie, close to the Christmas Tree.
While Billie, her brother, recited "The Shooting of Dan McGrew.
I reckon you've heard the opus, a ballad of guts and gore;
Of a Yukon frail and a frozen trail and a fight in a dringing dive,
It's on a par, I figger, with "The Face on the Bar-Room Floor,"
And the boys who wrote them pieces ought to be skinned alive.
Picture that scene of gladness; the honest faces aglow;
The kiddies gaping and spellbound, as Billie strutted his stuff.
The stage with its starry candles, and there in the foremost row,
Millie, bright as a fairy, in radient flounce and fluff.
More like an angel I thought her; all she needed was wings,
And I sought for a smile seraphic, but her eyes were only for Bill;
So there was I longing and loving, and dreaming the craziest things,
And Billie shouting and spouting, and everyone rapt and still.
Proud as a prince was Billie, bang in the footlights' glare,
And quaking for him was Millie, as she followed every word;
Then just as he reached the climax, ranting and sawing the air -
Ugh! How it makes me shudder! The horrible thing occurred.
'Twas the day when frocks were frilly, and skirts were scraping the ground,
And the snowy flounces of Millie like sea foam round her swept;
Humbly adoring I watched her - when oh, my heart gave a bound!
Hoary and scarred and hideous, out from the tree.
A whiskered, beady-eyes monster, grisly and grim of hue;
Savage and slinking and silent, born of the dark and dirt;
Dazed by the glare and the glitter, it wavered a moment or two -
Then like a sinister shadow, it vanished.
'neath Millie's skirt.
had my eyes deceived me? I shivered.
I held my breath.
Surly I must have dreamed it.
I made to rise.
Then - my God! it was real.
Millie grew pale as death;
And oh, such a look of terror woke in her lovely eyes.
Did her scream ring out? Ah no, sir.
It froze at her very lips.
Clenching her teeth she checked it, and I saw her slim hands lock,
Grasping and gripping tensely, with desperate finger tips,
Something that writhed and wriggled under her dainty frock.
Quick I'd have dashed to her rescue, but fiercely she signalled: "No!"
Her eyes were dark with anguish, but her lips were set and grim;
Then I knew she was thinking of Billie - the kiddy must have his show,
Reap to the full his glory, nothing mattered but him.
So spiked to my chair with horror, there I shuddered and saw
Her fingrs frenziedly clutching and squeezing with all their might
Something that squirmed and struggled, a deamon of tooth and claw,
Fighting with fear and fury, under her garment white.
Oh could I only aid her! But the wide room lay between,
And again her eyes besought me: "Steady!" they seamed to say.
"Stay where you are, Bob Simmons; don't let us have a scene,
Billie will soon be finished.
Only a moment.
A moment! Ah yes, I got her.
I knew how night after night
She'd learned him each line of that ballad with patience and pride and glee;
With gesture and tone dramatic, she'd taught him how to recite.
And now at the last to fail him - no, it must never be.
A moment! It seemed like ages.
Why was Billie so slow?
Twice he repeated: "The Lady that's known as Lou -"
The kiddy was stuck and she knew it.
Her face was frantic with woe.
Could she but come to his rescue? Could she remember the cue?
I saw her whispering wildly as she leaned to the frightened boy;
But Billie stared like a dummy, and I stifled an anxious curse.
Louder, louder she prompted; then his face illumined with joy,
And panting, flushed and exultant, he finished the final verse.
So the youngster would up like a whirlwind, while cheer resounded on cheer;
His piece was the hit of the evening.
"Bravo!" I heard them say.
But there in the heart of the racket was one who could not hear -
The loving sister who'd coached him; for Millie had fainted away.
I rushed to her side and grabbed her; then others saw her distress,
And all were eager to aid me, as I pillowed that golden head,
But her arms were tense and rigid, and clutched in the folds of her dress,
Unlocking her hands they found it .
A RAT .
and the brute was dead.
In silence she'd crushed its life out, rather than scare the crowd,
And queer little Billie's triumph .
Hey! Mother, what about tea?
I've just been telling a story that makes me so mighty proud.
Stranger, let me present you - my wife, that was Millie MacGee.
Thomas Hardy |
Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock.
"Now they are all on their knees,"
An elder said as we sat in a flock
By the embers in hearthside ease.
We pictured the meek mild creatures where
They dwelt in their strawy pen,
Nor did it occur to one of us there
To doubt they were kneeling then.
So fair a fancy few would weave
In these years! Yet, I feel,
If someone said on Christmas Eve,
"Come; see the oxen kneel,
"In the lonely barton by yonder coomb
Our childhood used to know,"
I should go with him in the gloom,
Hoping it might be so.
Marriott Edgar |
Would you hear a Wild tale of adventure
Of a hero who tackled the sea,
A super-man swimming the ocean,
Then hark to the tale of Joe Lee.
Our Channel, our own Straits of Dover
Had heen swum by an alien lot:
Our British-born swimmers had tried it,
But that was as far as they'd got.
So great was the outcry in England,
Darts Players neglected their beer,
And the Chanc'Ior proclaimed from the Woolsack
As Joe Lee were the chap for this 'ere.
For in swimming baths all round the country
Joe were noted for daring and strength;
Quite often he'd dived in the deep end,
And thought nothing of swimming a length.
So they wrote him, C/o Workhouse Master,
Joe were spending the summer with him,
And promised him two Christmas puddings
If over the Channel he'd swim.
Joe jumped into t' breach like an 'ero,
He said, "All their fears I'll relieve,
And it isn't their puddings I'm after,
As I told them last Christmas Eve.
"Though many have tackled the Channel
From Grisnez to Dover that is,
For the honour and glory of England
I'll swim from Dover to Gris-niz.
As soon as his words were made public
The newspapers gathered around
And offered to give him a pension
If he lost both his legs and got drowned.
He borrowed a tug from the Navy
To swim in the shelter alee,
The Wireless folk lent him a wavelength,
And the Water Board lent him the sea.
His wife strapped a mascot around him,
The tears to his eyes gently stole;
'Twere some guiness corks she had collected
And stitched to an old camisole.
He entered the water at daybreak,
A man with a camera stood near,
He said "Hurry up and get in, lad,
You're spoiling my view of the pier.
At last he were in, he were swimming
With a beautiful overarm stroke,
When the men on the tug saw with horror
That the rope he were tied to had broke.
Then down came a fog, thick as treacle,
The tug looked so distant and dim
A voice shouted "Help, I am drowning,"
Joe listened and found it were him.
The tug circled round till they found him,
They hauled him aboard like a sack,
Tied a new tow-rope around him,
Smacked him and then threw him back.
'Twere at sunset, or just a bit later,
That he realized all wasn't right,
For the tow-rope were trailing behind him
And the noose round his waist getting tight.
One hasty glance over his shoulder,
He saw in a flash what were wrong.
The Captain had shut off his engine,
Joe were towing the Tugboat along.
On and on through the darkness he paddled
Till he knew he were very near in
By the way he kept bumping the bottom
And hitting the stones with his chin.
Was it Grisniz he'd reached?.
No, it wasn't,
The treacherous tide in its track
Had carried him half-way to Blackpool
And he had to walk all the way back.