Friday, December 15, 2017

Gifts (December 15, 2017)

Magi
By Brenda Shaughnessy

If only you’d been a better mother.

How could I have been a better mother?
I would have needed a better self,
and that is a gift I never received.

So you’re saying it’s someone else’s fault?

The gift of having had a better mother myself,
my own mother having had a better mother herself.
The gift that keeps on not being given.

Who was supposed to give it?

How am I supposed to know?

Well, how am I supposed to live?

I suppose you must live as if you had been
given better to live with. Comb your hair, for instance.

I cut off my hair, to sell for the money
to buy you what you wanted.

I wanted nothing but your happiness.

I can’t give you that!
What would Jesus do?
He had a weird mother too . . .

Use the myrrh, the frankincense, as if
it were given unconditionally, your birthright.

It’s a riddle.

All gifts are a riddle, all lives are
in the middle of mother-lives.

But it’s always winter in this world.
There is no end to ending.

The season of giving, the season
when the bears are never cold,
because they are sleeping.

The bears are never cold, Mama,
but I am one cold, cold bear.




Contentment
By Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

“Man wants but little here below”
Little I ask; my wants are few; 
I only wish a hut of stone, 
(A very plain brown stone will do,) 
That I may call my own;— 
And close at hand is such a one, 
In yonder street that fronts the sun. 

Plain food is quite enough for me; 
Three courses are as good as ten;— 
If Nature can subsist on three, 
Thank Heaven for three. Amen! 
I always thought cold victual nice;— 
My choice would be vanilla-ice. 

I care not much for gold or land;— 
Give me a mortgage here and there,— 
Some good bank-stock, some note of hand, 
Or trifling railroad share,— 
I only ask that Fortune send 
little more than I shall spend. 

Honors are silly toys, I know, 
And titles are but empty names; 
I would, perhaps, be Plenipo,— 
But only near St. James; 
I’m very sure I should not care 
To fill our Gubernator’s chair. 

Jewels are baubles; ’t is a sin 
To care for such unfruitful things;— 
One good-sized diamond in a pin,— 
Some, not so large, in rings,— 
A ruby, and a pearl, or so, 
Will do for me;—I laugh at show. 

My dame should dress in cheap attire; 
(Good, heavy silks are never dear;)— 
I own perhaps I might desire 
Some shawls of true Cashmere,— 
Some marrowy crapes of China silk, 
Like wrinkled skins on scalded milk. 

I would not have the horse I drive 
So fast that folks must stop and stare; 
An easy gait—two forty-five— 
Suits me; I do not care;— 
Perhaps, for just a single spurt
Some seconds less would do no hurt. 

Of pictures, I should like to own 
Titians and Raphaels three or four,— 
I love so much their style and tone, 
One Turner, and no more, 
(A landscape,—foreground golden dirt,— 
The sunshine painted with a squirt.) 

Of books but few,—some fifty score 
For daily use, and bound for wear; 
The rest upon an upper floor;— 
Some little luxury there 
Of red morocco’s gilded gleam 
And vellum rich as country cream. 

Busts, cameos, gems,—such things as these, 
Which others often show for pride, 
I value for their power to please, 
And selfish churls deride;— 
One Stradivarius, I confess, 
Two Meerschaums, I would fain possess. 

Wealth’s wasteful tricks I will not learn, 
Nor ape the glittering upstart fool;— 
Shall not carved tables serve my turn, 
But all must be of buhl? 
Give grasping pomp its double share,— 
I ask but one recumbent chair. 

Thus humble let me live and die, 
Nor long for Midas’ golden touch; 
If Heaven more generous gifts deny, 
I shall not miss them much,— 
Too grateful for the blessing lent 
Of simple tastes and mind content!



A Copywriter's Christmas
BY Margaret Fishback


The Twenty-fifth is imminent
And every known expedient
Designed for making Christmas pay
Is getting swiftly under way.
Observe the people swarming to
And fro, somnambulating through
The stores in search of ties and shirts
And gloves to give until it hurts.

They're eyeing gifts in Saks' and Hearn's 
And Macy's, not to mention Stern's,
While earnest copywriters are
Hitching their copy to the star
Of Bethlehem quite shamelessly,
For they are duty bound to see
That Peace On Earth Good Will To Men
Gets adequate results again. 

Margaret Fishback, "A Copywriter’s Christmas" from Out of My Head.  Copyright © 1933 b


To Mrs K____, On Her Sending Me an English Christmas Plum-Cake at Paris

What crowding thoughts around me wake, 
What marvels in a Christmas-cake! 
Ah say, what strange enchantment dwells 
Enclosed within its odorous cells? 
Is there no small magician bound 
Encrusted in its snowy round? 
For magic surely lurks in this, 
A cake that tells of vanished bliss; 
A cake that conjures up to view 
The early scenes, when life was new; 
When memory knew no sorrows past, 
And hope believed in joys that last! — 
Mysterious cake, whose folds contain 
Life’s calendar of bliss and pain; 
That speaks of friends for ever fled, 
And wakes the tears I love to shed. 
Oft shall I breathe her cherished name 
From whose fair hand the offering came: 
For she recalls the artless smile 
Of nymphs that deck my native isle; 
Of beauty that we love to trace, 
Allied with tender, modest grace; 
Of those who, while abroad they roam, 
Retain each charm that gladdens home, 
And whose dear friendships can impart 
A Christmas banquet for the heart!




In the bleak midwinter
In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom cherubim, worship night and day,
Breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels fall before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.


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