Archive for December, 2018

Monday, 31 December 2018

On the Eve of a New Year by Phillip A. Ellis

After all, this year was closing
towards another, and the passage
of time towards another set
of numbers. But in thinking this
to myself, in the thought of time
and the thought that is another
year coming towards me, I find
myself looking at time as a wind.

Once, when I was a child and walking
to school, the wind was strongly
perpendicular to the road, and called
me towards where the cars wavered
as they passed. I was almost crying
as I struggled against the wind, once
clinging to a lamp-post, frightened
and fearful of the waiting road.

My heart was beating then, I felt it
striking deeply within with hammering
pulses. But not now, caught as I am
in the winds of time that stretch me
forwards into a rapidly approaching
year, I cannot hear the pulse
that I know is dreaming under me,
under the ribs and flesh, and my skin.

And I know that the road waits
for me, and I know that at last I shall
step upon it. But I am not so afraid
as resigned, seeking to enjoy my time
in the wind a little more each day,
even though I mourn each day passing
me into oblivion. I am prepared, though,
to let go of this lamp-post, life, hope, will.

Even though I remember walking
to school, in the perpendicular wind
that was summoning me onto the road,
I may well forget that image, and may
well keep remembering it from time
to time. Funny how life is like that,
really, sometimes we remember,
and sometimes it’s lost to the wind.


Date: 2004

By: Phillip A. Ellis (19??- )

Sunday, 30 December 2018

Summer of the Ladybirds by Vivian Brian Smith

Can we learn wisdom watching insects now,
or just the art of quiet observation?
Creatures from the world of leaf and flower
marking weather’s variation.

The huge dry summer of the ladybirds
(we thought we’d never feel such heat again)
started with white cabbage butterflies
sipping at thin trickles in the drain.

Then one by one the ladybirds appeared
obeying some far purpose or design.
We marvelled at their numbers in the garden,
grouped together, shuffling in a line.

Each day a few strays turned up at the table,
the children laughed to see them near the jam
exploring round the edges of a spoon.
One tried to drink the moisture on my arm.

How random and how frail seemed their lives,
and yet how they persisted, refugees,
saving energy by keeping still
and hiding in the grass and in the trees.

And then one day they vanished overnight.
Clouds gathered, storm exploded, weather cleared.
And all the wishes that we might have had
in such abundance simply disappeared.


Date: 1995

By: Vivian Brian Smith (1933- )

Saturday, 29 December 2018

The Amorous Cannibal by Christopher Keith “Chris” Wallace-Crabbe

Suppose I were to eat you
I should probably begin
with the fingers, the cheeks and the breasts
yet all of you would tempt me,
so powerfully spicy
as to discompose my choice.

While I gobbled you up
delicacy by tidbit
I should lay the little bones
ever so gently round my plate
and caress the bigger bones
like ivory talismans.

When I had quite devoured the edible you
(your tongue informing my voice-box)
I would wake in the groin of night
to feel, ever so slowly,
your plangent, ravishing ghost
munching my fingers and toes.

Here, with an awkward, delicate gesture
someone slides out his heart
and offers it on a spoon,
garnished with adjectives.


Date: 1985

By: Christopher Keith “Chris” Wallace-Crabbe (1934- )

Friday, 28 December 2018

Sibelius and Marley by Ishion Hutchinson

History is dismantled music; slant,
bleak on gravel. One amasses silence,
another chastises silence with nettles,
stinging ferns. I oscillate in their jaws.

The whole gut listens. The ear winces
white nights in his talons: sinking mire.
He wails and a comet impales the sky
with the duel wink of a wasp’s burning.

Music dismantles history; the flambeaux
inflame in his eyes with a locust plague,
a rough gauze bolting up his mouth unfolds,
so he lashes the air with ropes and roots

that converge on a dreadful zero,
a Golden Age. Somewhere, an old film.
Dusk solders on a cold, barren coast. There
I am a cenotaph of horns and stones.


Date: 2016

By: Ishion Hutchinson (1983- )

Thursday, 27 December 2018

In the Cars by George Boyer Vashon

(October 2d, 1864.)
Five fleeting hours, on towards famed Erie Lake,
We’ve traced our course along the varied scene;
And now, that Night has dropped her sable screen,
Let Fancy homeward an excursion take.

The rocking car no more a car doth seem,
But dons the shape of a familiar room;
And in the stead of haziness and gloom,
There all the stars of my affection gleam.

There sits the dear, fond mother of my boys,
Who kneel around her—while, with smile and nod,
Their cousin soothes our latest-sent of God—
Our baby-girl—the crowning of our joys.

And farther, higher, doth my fancy roam;
For, silencing the swift wheels’ iron blare,
Three lisping voices blend into one prayer:
“God bless dear papa! Bring him safely home!”

And, God bless you, my darlings! Gently fall
The bliss of slumber on you. While we pray,—
You at your home, I on my far-off way,—
God, the All-Father, watches o’er us all.

(August 11th, 1865.)
Ten moons have waxed and waned since thus I sung,
Ten moons replete with household joys and griefs:
Joys many, and one sorrow, whose relief
Can only be when years this heart have wrung.

Once more within the cars—yet not, as first,
Amid the turmoil of the murky night.
Lo! to the rearward, glancing spears of light
Tell that the Day-king soon on us will burst.

Will burst in all his full-blown summer pride;
Not lured by love of placid Western stream—
A mate more bounteous now awaits his beam—
He seeks fair Juniata as his bride.

Blest be their union. But no long delay
May make me witness of their plighted joys.
My wife awaits me—my three darling boys;
Let other bards then tune their nuptial lay.

But she, our babe, our latest-sent of God!
Alas, alas, our earliest called of Him!
At thought of her my flooded eyes will dim.
Ah, Father, wherefore fell thy chastening rod?

She may not come, with tottering gait, to greet
Her sire’s return; nor e’er, with gleeful laugh,
Tender her ready lips, whence he may quaff
Fell tides of life than nectar far more sweet.

Ah, no, sweet bud, that didst too early bloom,
The chill March wind hath nipped thy promise fair.
What power, then, may banish our despair?
What spell recall thee from the icy tomb?

Not so! Be ours the hope and faith which tell
That our lost bud blooms ’mong the angel flowers,
That in another life it will be ours,
Forevermore with God and us to dwell.

Ours! On, towards home! My wife, my boys, my niece,
Await me there. Our sainted baby-girl,
In her new state, fairer than orient pearl,
Waits for us all in that wished home of peace.

Pittsburgh, Pa., Aug. 1865.

From: Gardner, Eric; Nielsen, Aldon Lynn; Leonard, Keith D.; Shockley, Evie and Bynum, Tara. “George Boyer Vashon’s “In the Cars”: A Poem and Four Responses.” in American Periodicals: A Journal of History & Criticism, Volume 25, No. 2, 2015, pp. 177-187 from Project MUSE.

Date: 1865

By: George Boyer Vashon (1824-1878)

Wednesday, 26 December 2018

Boxing Day, Campbell Parade by Adam Aitken

I step out into the sun and traffic chaos
of a beach in an obscure developing country.
Doorsteps of exotic eateries where child labour
sweeps spice dust into pyramids.
There are drums, the economy in hysterical trance.
Talismans glitter, shamans, crystals.
Boulevarde life. Potential film extras filing past,
drunks collect guilt money.

I stop, I know it’s Christmas.
An agent of perfection unflips her briefcase of safaris.
I yearn for the quiet birth of metaphysics
and invite her to partake with me
the wild ecology beyond whitewater.

Later that evening a Pizza boy arrives
sweltering with a stack of two-for-ones.
And in the morning the beer’s worn off.
I jog to the shark tower’s siren,
and read a blackboard with the sea’s numerology.

I want Boxing Day to end without strain,
it’s not too late in life to be a Weetbix Kid
riding waves of traffic generated deep and distantly
from suburbs that flounder in the heat.

My box of concrete fire rated,
fully secure. I miss my friends.
My lover goes back to her parents.

I miss her kind of Christmas,
turkeys, smoked hams, and not
a single regret in the world.
The southerly begins to blow.
A humble star arrives, it’s late but I don’t mind;
its pinpoint of light
leading me home.


Date: 1996

By: Adam Aitken (1960- )

Tuesday, 25 December 2018

Christmas: 1915 by Percy MacKaye

Now is the midnight of the nations: dark
Even as death, beside her blood-dark seas,
Earth, like a mother in birth agonies,
Screams in her travail, and the planets hark
Her million-throated terror. Naked, stark,
Her torso writhes enormous, and her knees
Shudder against the shadowed Pleiades
Wrenching the night’s imponderable arc.

Christ! What shall be delivered to the morn
Out of these pangs, if ever indeed another
Morn shall succeed this night, or this vast mother
Survive to know the blood-spent offspring, torn
From her racked flesh?—What splendour from the smother?
What new-wing’d world, or mangled god still-born?


Date: 1917

By: Percy MacKaye (1875-1956)

Monday, 24 December 2018

Christmas Eve: My Mother Dressing by Toi Derricotte

My mother was not impressed with her beauty;
once a year she put it on like a costume,
plaited her black hair, slick as cornsilk, down past her hips,
in one rope-thick braid, turned it, carefully, hand over hand,
and fixed it at the nape of her neck, stiff and elegant as a crown,
with tortoise pins, like huge insects,
some belonging to her dead mother,
some to my living grandmother.
Sitting on the stool at the mirror,
she applied a peachy foundation that seemed to hold her down, to trap her,
as if we never would have noticed what flew among us unless it was weighted and bound in its mask.
Vaseline shined her eyebrows,
mascara blackened her lashes until they swept down like feathers;
her eyes deepened until they shone from far away.

Now I remember her hands, her poor hands, which, even then were old from scrubbing,
whiter on the inside than they should have been,
and hard, the first joints of her fingers, little fattened pads,
the nails filed to sharp points like old-fashioned ink pens, painted a jolly color,
Her hands stood next to her face and wanted to be put away, prayed
for the scrub bucket and brush to make them useful.
And, as I write, I forget the years I watched her
pull hairs like a witch from her chin, magnify
every blotch—as if acid were thrown from the inside.

But once a year my mother
rose in her white silk slip,
not the slave of the house, the woman,
took the ironed dress from the hanger—
allowing me to stand on the bed, so that
my face looked directly into her face,
and hold the garment away from her
as she pulled it down.


Date: 1989

By: Toi Derricotte (1941- )

Sunday, 23 December 2018

Christmas Eve by Ella Rhoads Higginson

Straight thro’ a fold of purple mist
The sun goes down―a crimson wheel―
And like an opal burns the sea
That once was cold as steel.

With pomp of purple, gold and red,
Thou wilt come back at morrow’s dawn. . .
But thou can’st never bring, O Sun,
The Christmas that is gone!


Date: 1898

By: Ella Rhoads Higginson (1862-1940)

Saturday, 22 December 2018

Johnnie’s Christmas by Elizabeth (Libbie) Caroline Riley Baer

Papa and mama, and baby and Dot,
Willie and me—the whole of the lot
Of us all went over in Bimberlie’s sleigh,
To grandmama’s house on Christmas day.

Covered with robes on the soft cushioned seat,
With heads well wrapped up and hot bricks to our feet,
And two prancing horses, tho’ ten miles away,
The ride was quite short, on that bright Christmas day.

When all were tucked in and the driver said “Go!”
The horses just flew o’er the white, shining snow;
The town it slipped by us and meadow and tree,
And farm house till grandmama’s house we did see.

Grandmama was watching for us, there’s no doubt;
She soon come to meet us, and helped us all out;
And kissin’ and huggin’ said how we boys growed,
And big as our papa we’d soon be, she knowed.

And Dot she called handsome and said: “Ah! I guess
Grandmama’s woman has got a new dress.”
And said that the baby was pretty and smart;
“Dod b’ess it and love its own sweet ’ittle heart.”

And O, the red apples, and pop-corn on strings;
And balls of it, too, and nuts, candy and things;
And O, such a dinner and such pumpkin pie;
I eat and I eat till I thought I would die.

And grandmama urgin’, “Now, Johnnie, my man,
I wants you to eat; just eat all you can.”
When I eat all I could then I eat a lots more,
And I didn’t feel good as I had felt before.

At last it came time for us all to go back,
And into the sleigh again, all of us pack;
With grandmama kissin’ and sayin’ good byes,
With smiles on her lips, but the tears in her eyes.

We seemed much more crowded, and Bimberlie’s sleigh
Kept jerkin’ and hurtin’ me most all the way;
The robes were so stuffy I couldn’t get breath,
And Dot and the baby most squeezed me to death.

All night I kept tumblin’ and tossin’, ma said,
And frowed all the cover half off of the bed;
I dreamed of roast turkey and pop-corn and pie,
And fruit cake and candy, piled up to the sky!

And I dreamed I was sick and just lookin’ at it,
A wantin’ and yet I could not eat a bit;
And grandmama urgin’, “Now, Johnnie, my man,
I want you to eat, just eat all you can.”


Date: 1902

By: Elizabeth (Libbie) Caroline Riley Baer (1849-1929)