Archive for ‘Christmas’

Friday, 27 December 2019

On the Thirteenth Day of Christmas My True Love Phoned Me Up . . . by Dave Calder

Well, I suppose I should be grateful, you’ve obviously gone
to a lot of trouble and expense – or maybe off your head.
Yes, I did like the birds – the small ones anyway were fun
if rather messy, but now the hens have roosted on my bed
and the rest are nested on the wardrobe. It’s hard to sleep
with all that cooing, let alone the cackling of the geese
whose eggs are everywhere, but mostly in a broken smelly heap
on the sofa. No, why should I mind? I can’t get any peace
anywhere – the lounge is full of drummers thumping tom-toms
and sprawling lords crashed out from manic leaping. The
kitchen is crammed with cows and milkmaids and smells of a million stink-bombs
and enough sour milk to last a year. The pipers? I’d forgotten them –
they were no trouble, I paid them and they went. But I can’t get rid
of these young ladies. They won’t stop dancing or turn the music down
and they’re always in the bathroom, squealing as they skid
across the flooded floor. No, I don’t need a plumber round,
it’s just the swans – where else can they swim? Poor things,
I think they’re going mad, like me. When I went to wash my
hands one ate the soap, another swallowed the gold rings.
And the pear tree died. Too dry. So thanks for nothing, love. Goodbye.

From: Calder, Dave, A Big Bunch of Poems, 2010, Other Publications, Liverpool, p. [unnumbered]
(http://www.windowsproject.net/downlds/bigbunch.pdf)

Date: 2010

By: Dave Calder (19??- )

Thursday, 26 December 2019

Boxing Day by Vern Rutsala

In the mud we
begin to understand.
Fictions fall away—
old skin, old hair,

old midnight pledges
scale in wet light.
Whatever was following
has caught up.

It is with us now.
Old vacancy, old tramp
riding the train
whistles, old ugly

come to visit,
old bastard Daddy
crazy drunk, warbling
hello and hacking

like a bullfrog.
We are his favorites.
His dark pockets
are stuffed with gifts—

Christmas candy matted
with lint and tobacco
is peeled out like ore
and it is just for us.

From: Rutsala, Vern, “Boxing Day” in Poetry, January 1972, p. 193.
(https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/browse?volume=119&issue=4&page=11)

Date: 1972

By: Vern Rutsala (1934-2014)

Wednesday, 25 December 2019

Christmas Comes But Once a Year by Thomas Miller

Those Christmas bells as sweetly chime,
As on the day when first they rung
So merrily in the olden time,
And far and wide their music flung:
Shaking the tall grey ivied tower,
With all their deep melodious power:
They still proclaim to every ear,
Old Christmas comes but once a year.

Then he came singing through the woods,
And plucked the holly bright and green;
Pulled here and there the ivy buds;
Was sometimes hidden, sometimes seen —
Half-buried ‘neath the mistletoe,
His long beard hung with flakes of snow;
And still he ever carolled clear,
Old Christmas comes but once a year.

He merrily came in days of old,
When roads were few, and ways were foul,
Now staggered, — now some ditty trolled,
Now drank deep from his wassail bowl;
His holly silvered o’er with frost.
Nor never once his way he lost,
For reeling here and reeling there,
Old Christmas comes but once a year.

The hall was then with holly crowned,
‘Twas on the wild-deer’s antlers placed;
It hemmed the battered armour round,
And every ancient trophy graced.
It decked the boar’s head, tusked and grim,
The wassail bowl wreathed to the brim.
A summer-green hung everywhere,
For Christmas comes but once a year.

His jaded steed the armed knight
Reigned up before the abbey gate;
By all assisted to alight,
From humble monk, to abbot great.
They placed his lance behind the door,
His armour on the rush-strewn floor;
And then brought out the best of cheer,
For Christmas comes but once a year.

The maiden then, in quaint attire,
Loosed from her head the silken hood,
And danced before the yule-clog fire —
The crackling monarch of the wood.
Helmet and shield flashed back the blaze,
In lines of light, like summer rays,
While music sounded loud and clear,
For Christmas comes but once a year.

What, though upon his hoary head,
Have fallen many a winter’s snow,
His wreath is still as green and red
As ‘t was a thousand years ago.
For what has he to do with care?
His wassail bowl and old arm-chair
Are ever standing ready there,
For Christmas comes but once a year.

No marvel Christmas lives so long,
He never knew but merry hours,
His nights were spent with mirth and song,
In happy homes, and princely bowers;
Was greeted both by serf and lord,
And seated at the festal board;
While every voice cried “Welcome here,”
Old Christmas comes but once a year.

But what care we for days of old,
The knights whose arms have turned to rust,
Their grim boars’ heads, and pasties cold,
Their castles crumbled into dust?
Never did sweeter faces go,
Blushing beneath the mistletoe,
Than are to-night assembled here,
For Christmas comes but once a year.

For those old times are dead and gone,
And those who hailed them passed away,
Yet still there lingers many a one,
To welcome in old Christmas Day.
The poor will many a care forget,
The debtor think not of his debt;
But, as they each enjoy their cheer,
Wish it was Christmas all the year.

And still around those good old times
We hang like friends full loth to part,
We listen to the simple rhymes
Which somehow sink into the heart,
“Half musical, half melancholy,”
Like childish smiles that still are holy,
A masquer’s face dimmed with a tear,
For Christmas comes but once a year.

The bells which usher in that morn,
Have ever drawn my mind away
To Bethlehem, where Christ was born,
And the low stable where He lay,
In which the large-eyed oxen fed;
To Mary bowing low her head,
And looking down with love sincere,
Such thoughts bring Christmas once a year.

At early day the youthful voice,
Heard singing on from door to door,
Makes the responding heart rejoice,
To know the children of the poor
For once are happy all day long;
We smile and listen to the song,
The burthen still remote or near,
“Old Christmas comes but once a year.”

Upon a gayer happier scene,
Never did holly berries peer,
Or ivy throw its trailing green,
On brighter forms than there are here,
Nor Christmas in his old arm-chair
Smile upon lips and brows more fair,
Then let us sing amid our cheer,
Old Christmas still comes once a year.

From: Vizetelly, Henry (ed.), Christmas with the Poets, a Collection of Songs, Carols, and Verses, Relating to the Festival of Christmas, from the Anglo-Normal Period to the Present Time, 1852, David Bogue: London, pp. 164-168.
(https://archive.org/details/christmaswithpo01chrigoog/)

Date: 1852

By: Thomas Miller (1807-1874)

Tuesday, 24 December 2019

Christmas Mail by Theodore J. (Ted) Kooser

Cards in each mailbox,
angel, manger, star and lamb,
as the rural carrier,
driving the snowy roads,
hears from her bundles
the plaintive bleating of sheep,
the shuffle of sandals,
the clopping of camels.
At stop after stop,
she opens the little tin door
and places deep in the shadows
the shepherds and wise men,
the donkeys lank and weary,
the cow who chews and muses.
And from her Styrofoam cup,
white as a star and perched
on the dashboard, leading her
ever into the distance,
there is a hint of hazelnut,
and then a touch of myrrh.

From: https://www.americanlifeinpoetry.org/columns/detail/405

Date: 2012

By: Theodore J. (Ted) Kooser (1939- )

Thursday, 19 December 2019

Help Wanted by Timothy Tocher

Santa needs new reindeer.
The first bunch has grown old.
Dasher has arthritis;
Comet hates the cold.
Prancer’s sick of staring
at Dancer’s big behind.
Cupid married Blitzen
and Donder lost his mind.
Dancer’s mad at Vixen
for stepping on his toes.
Vixen’s being thrown out—
she laughed at Rudolph’s nose.
If you are a reindeer
we hope you will apply.
There is just one tricky part:
You must know how to fly.

From: https://www.panmacmillan.com/blogs/literary/our-favourite-christmas-poems

Date: 1991

By: Timothy Tocher (19??- )

Thursday, 5 December 2019

Of Christ’s Birth in an Inn by Jeremy Taylor

The blessed Virgin travail’d without pain,
And lodged in an inn;
A glorious star the sign,
But of a greater guest than ever came that way;—
For there He lay,
That is the God of night and day,
And over all the powers of heaven doth reign.
It was the time of great Augustus’ tax,
And then he comes,
That pays all sums,
Ev’n the whole price of lost humanity,
And sets us free
From the ungodly empery
Of sin, and Satan, and of death.
O make our hearts, blest God, thy lodging place;
And in our breast
Be pleased to rest,
For thou lov’st temples better than an inn;
And cause, that sin
May not profane the Deity within,
And sully o’er the ornaments of grace.—Amen.

From: Taylor, Jeremy, The Whole Works of the Right Rev. Jeremy Taylor, D.D., Lord Bishop of Down, Connor, and Dromore. With An Essay, Biographical and Critical, in Three Volumes, Volume III, 1836, Frederick Westley and A. H. Davis: London,  p. 744.
(https://books.google.com.au/books?id=SU9OAQAAMAAJ)

Date: 1655

By: Jeremy Taylor (1613-1667)

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.

From: https://www.poetrylibrary.edu.au/poets/aitken-adam/boxing-day-campbell-parade-0579050

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?

From: https://poems.khutchins.com/poem/489_christmas-.html

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.

From: http://www.persimmontree.org/v2/tag/toi-derricotte/

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!

From: https://ellahigginson.blogspot.com/p/christmas-eve_16.html

Date: 1898

By: Ella Rhoads Higginson (1862-1940)