Saturday, December 22, 2018

Christmas 2018





Advent
By Mary Jo Salter 

Wind whistling, as it does

in winter, and I think

nothing of it until


it snaps a shutter off

her bedroom window, spins

it over the roof and down


to crash on the deck in back,

like something out of Oz.

We look up, stunned—then glad


to be safe and have a story,

characters in a fable

we only half-believe.


Look, in my surprise

I somehow split a wall,

the last one in the house


we’re making of gingerbread.

We’ll have to improvise:

prop the two halves forward



like an open double door

and with a tube of icing

cement them to the floor.



Five days until Christmas,

and the house cannot be closed.

When she peers into the cold



interior we’ve exposed,

she half-expects to find

three magi in the manger,



a mother and her child.

She half-expects to read

on tablets of gingerbread


a line or two of Scripture,

as she has every morning

inside a dated shutter





on her Advent calendar.

She takes it from the mantel

and coaxes one fingertip



under the perforation,

as if her future hinges

on not tearing off the flap



under which a thumbnail picture

by Raphael or Giorgione,

Hans Memling or David


of apses, niches, archways,

cradles a smaller scene

of a mother and her child,





of the lidded jewel-box

of Mary’s downcast eyes.

Flee into Egypt, cries





the angel of the Lord

to Joseph in a dream,

for Herod will seek the young



child to destroy him. While

she works to tile the roof

with shingled peppermints,



I wash my sugared hands

and step out to the deck

to lug the shutter in,



a page torn from a book

still blank for the two of us,

a mother and her child.


Messiah (Christmas Portions)
By Mark Doty 

A little heat caught

in gleaming rags,

in shrouds of veil,

torn and sun-shot swaddlings:

over the Methodist roof,

two clouds propose a Zion

of their own, blazing

(colors of tarnish on copper

against the steely close

of a coastal afternoon, December,

while under the steeple

the Choral Society

prepares to perform

Messiah, pouring, in their best

blacks and whites, onto the raked stage.

Not steep, really,

but from here,

the first pew, they’re a looming

cloudbank of familiar angels:

that neighbor who

fights operatically

with her girlfriend, for one,

and the friendly bearded clerk

from the post office

—tenor trapped

in the body of a baritone? Altos

from the A&P, soprano

from the T-shirt shop:


today they’re all poise,

costume and purpose

conveying the right note

of distance and formality.


Silence in the hall,

anticipatory, as if we’re all

about to open a gift we’re not sure

we’ll like;


how could they

compete with sunset’s burnished

oratorio? Thoughts which vanish,

when the violins begin.

Who’d have thought

they’d be so good? Every valley,

proclaims the solo tenor,

(a sleek blonde


I’ve seen somewhere before

—the liquor store?) shall be exalted,

and in his handsome mouth the word

is lifted and opened


into more syllables

than we could count, central ah

dilated in a baroque melisma,

liquefied; the pour

of voice seems

to make the unplaned landscape

the text predicts the Lord

will heighten and tame.


This music

demonstrates what it claims:

glory shall be revealed. If art’s

acceptable evidence,


mustn’t what lies

behind the world be at least

as beautiful as the human voice?

The tenors lack confidence,


and the soloists,

half of them anyway, don’t

have the strength to found

the mighty kingdoms


these passages propose

—but the chorus, all together,

equals my burning clouds,

and seems itself to burn,


commingled powers

deeded to a larger, centering claim.

These aren’t anyone we know;

choiring dissolves


familiarity in an up-

pouring rush which will not

rest, will not, for a moment,

be still.


Aren’t we enlarged

by the scale of what we’re able

to desire? Everything,

the choir insists,


might flame;

inside these wrappings

burns another, brighter life,

quickened, now,


by song: hear how

it cascades, in overlapping,

lapidary waves of praise? Still time.

Still time to change.

The Oxen
By 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.









Get Me Through December
By Fred Lavery and Gordie Sampson

How pale is the sky that brings forth the rain
As the changing of seasons prepares me again
For the long bitter nights and the wild winter's day
My heart has grown cold, my love stored away
My heart has grown cold, my love stored away
I've been to the mountain, left my tracks in the snow
Where souls have been lost and the walking wounded go
I've taken the pain no girl should endure
Faith can move mountains; of that I am sure
But faith can move mountains; of that I am sure
Just get me through December
A promise I'll remember
Get me through December
So I can start again
No divine purpose brings freedom from sin
And peace is a gift that must come from within
I've looked for the love that will bring me to rest
Feeding this hunger beating strong in my chest
Feeding this hunger beating strong in my chest
Get me through December
A promise I'll remember
Get me through December
So I can start again




December Substitute
By Kenn Nesbitt 

Our substitute is strange because

he looks a lot like Santa Claus.

In fact, the moment he walked in

we thought that he was Santa’s twin.



We wouldn’t think it quite so weird,

if it were just his snowy beard.

But also he has big black boots

and wears these fuzzy bright red suits.



He’s got a rather rounded gut

that’s like a bowl of you-know-what.

And when he laughs, it’s deep and low

and sounds a lot like “Ho! Ho! Ho!”



He asks us all if we’ve been good

and sleeping when we know we should.

He talks of reindeers, sleighs, and elves

and tells us to behave ourselves.



And when it’s time for us to go

he dashes out into the snow.

But yesterday we figured out

just what our sub is all about.


We know just why he leaves so quick,

and why he’s dressed like Old Saint Nick

in hat and coat and boots and all:
He's working evenings at the mall.






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