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Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

First Lie

 

 

 

inside the lie

was a beautiful truth

that grew a white beard

and a giant belly

and though it preferred

to go barefoot

it stepped into shiny black boots

and moved north—

so far north that no one

could find it—

and buried itself

in snow and surrounded

itself with elves and candy

and increasingly elaborate stories,

stories so lovely that for a while

the lie began to believe itself,

until one day

a girl walked right up to it

and said to it,

Tell me the truth

and the snow melted

and the beard fell out

and the elves turned back

into evergreen trees

and the boots did their best

to erase their tracks,

and the truth stood there

naked and said,

There is so much joy

in giving,

and the girl cried

and cried,

longing for the lie.

I just want there to be real magic,

she said.

And the truth

held out its

beautiful hand

and said,

This, too, is magic.

It was years

before the girl

could listen.

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One Curiosity

 

 

 

so unwillingly

the cat jumps out

of the Christmas tree

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One Persistence

 

 

beside the fireplace,

partially eaten cookies—

all of us wanting to believe

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wishing I could wrap

devotion, wishing you

could open it

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We sat in the pew

furthest back in the church.

My father would hum all the hymns

 

and I’d lean closer to him and hum along,

then lean toward my mother

and sing with her the words—

 

I swayed between them like a metronome,

humming, then singing, then

humming, then singing.

 

How giddy I was, grateful to be the girl

between them. I did not yet know how

difficult it was to be a parent.

 

I only knew how good it felt

to be loved, how safe I felt between them,

how delighted I was to find in myself

 

some part of each of them,

so delighted that even now,

over forty years later

 

and a thousand miles away,

I remember that night

and begin to sway.

 

 

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Believe me, the bon bons are even better

than they look from the audience.

Mother Ginger has made them

with something far sweeter

than Belgian chocolate,

sweeter than old fashioned caramel.

 

And the snowflakes that fall

at the end of Act One,

they are the best kind of snow—

the kind that never melts

and never make you cold,

the kind that glitter and shimmer and shine.

 

Believe me, it’s hard to leave.

 

Before the final curtain’s drawn,

I wave goodbye and smile,

and the golden sleigh

carries me off stage right

as the Nutcracker Prince

waves goodbye and the Sugar

Plum Fairy blows me a kiss.

 

Believe me, it never gets better than this.

 

Every time I wake the next morning,

I look at myself in the mirror and notice

the diamond tiara is gone,

my white gown hangs rumpled,

a lily left out of water too long.

 

Don’t cry, I tell myself. Don’t cry,

though the tears start

to sting in my eyes. Don’t cry.

I tell myself, soon enough

my parents throw the big party again

and Fritz will wail on that blasted trumpet

and Drosselmeyer will bring me

my slender prince, disguised

as a nutcracker, and I will travel

through the strangest dream,

the most wonderful dream,

though I swear it is real.

For over a hundred twenty-five years,

it’s happened so many times

how could I not believe it?

 

And though I have always

managed to kill the king of the mice

just before he stabs my prince,

every time I fear this will be the time

I will miss with my shoe and

I’ll lose my prince forever.

And every time they push my sleigh

off stage, I pray it will stop

before it reaches the curtains,

pray that this will be the time

I get to stay. This will be the time

I wake to see the prince’s face,

and he’ll beam as he waves his hand

toward the window where the snow

is falling, catching the light,

and the symphony plays on,

a lilting waltz that spirals through

the applause, through dawn.

 

 

 

 

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And usually, at some point

in the tree trimming, when the living room

is covered in twenty-year-old tissues

and my fingers are raw from the needles

and the rest of the family

has long since tired of the project,

around then, I start to wonder

what it’s really for, all this bustle

and embellishment and then,

like today, I’ll pick up an ornament—

say the one my grandmother made

from a metal cookie cutter trimmed

in blue ribbon and angel hair,

and inside it sleep two baby figurines,

a pink one for me, a blue for my brother—

and I am weeping,

remembering how I would stare at this ornament

as a child, how beautiful it was

dangling so high on the tree

where all the more delicate ornaments would go.

I was small then, but I knew

my grandmother made that ornament

with me in mind and I loved her for her thoughtfulness.

She is gone this year, and I marvel

at how present she is in this room

as I sing “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem”

with Aaron Neville and remember singing

carols with her in the church loft,

her soprano warbling and true.

And I climb the ladder to hang

the ornament high on the tree,

where the more delicate ornaments go.

And suddenly I see it is my son and daughter

sleeping in that ornament,

there where I thought it was my brother and me.

And I think of my mother’s hands

all those years she hung that ornament

reverently, and how the spruce needles

would have pricked her, too, and I

sing with Aaron about peace to men on earth,

and some of that peace slips into me,

so silently, so silently.

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I want to give you words,

as if they might do what

the body can’t do—

 

as if with verb I could

meet the place in you

that most wants to be touched,

 

as if with noun I could

know the parts of you

that most want to be known.

 

I want to give you

the most faithful adjective,

the one that cradles you

 

before you even realize

that you need to be held—

once I heard a song

 

written by a man

for another man, a song

that swelled, then took

 

two steps back,

then swelled again, then

took two steps back

 

before finally rising

to an unsteady ledge

and my heart

 

beat outside of my body

and my eyes wept

with tears that were mine and not mine,

 

and I want to give you words

that will find every ache in you

that longs to be soothed,

 

words that will seek out

each lonely place, that will find

every branch of you—

 

not like a wind

that is here and gone, no, more like

the bark that gives everything

 

to protect you,

the bark that grows as you grow

and takes its shape from you.

 

 

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Merry Almost Christmas! As we near holiday, here are two poems that came out yesterday in Telluride Inside that play with the carols and parables. What was really going on in that field with the shepherds and their sheep? And … what really IS going on in my home on that (not so) silent night … wishing all of you something miraculous. Like peace.

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In the crèche arranged on the piano each Christmas,

the clay face of the virgin mother is eternally beaming

at the miracle child in his swaddling clothes,

 

and the miracle child is sleeping, always peacefully sleeping,

no matter how loudly my son pretends he’s a race car, no matter

how many people are laughing in the kitchen.

 

And Joseph, he is looking out across the piano

as if staring through the stable, staring through centuries,

perhaps, as if he can already see the tables upended

 

in the temple, can already smell the sweetness

of shared loaves and the pungency of fish, can hear

Mary weeping, or is it me he hears, playing piano

 

and singing about the hopes and fears of all the years,

then pausing to ask my children not to argue, please,

and to use their kindest voices with each other—and they

 

continue to bicker. Meanwhile the shepherd and his sheep

gaze up at the crack in the wall in awe, as if there were stars there,

stars brightly shining, and yonder, breaking, a new and glorious morn.

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