by Nona Blyth Cloud
Through the small tall bathroom window
the December yard is gray and scratchy,
the tree calligraphic.
………………………… – Dave Eggers
The view from Dave Eggers’ bathroom window is a close match to the view from my kitchen window. Most trees here in Southern California don’t shed their leaves, but my neighbor’s fig tree does, and our long-dead grass, unwatered in the drought, is a graying yellow stubble interrupted by dying weeds.
No matter where you live in the Northern Hemisphere, December is a month with at least some days where most of the color has been bled out of the view from your window. No wonder this last month of the year should be a universal time of holidays with uplifting music, merry-making things to eat or drink, and bright colors.
Winter Solstice, Hannukah, Christmas and all the other celebrations are about Light. From lighting candles to lightening the burdens of others, they are our stand against the Dark outside our windows.
by Robert Louis Stevenson
Late lies the wintry sun a-bed,
A frosty, fiery sleepy-head;
Blinks but an hour or two; and then,
A blood-red orange, sets again.
Before the stars have left the skies,
At morning in the dark I rise;
And shivering in my nakedness,
By the cold candle, bathe and dress.
When to go out, my nurse doth wrap
Me in my comforter and cap;
The cold wind burns my face, and blows
Its frosty pepper up my nose.
Black are my steps on silver sod;
Thick blows my frosty breath abroad;
And tree and house, and hill and lake,
Are frosted like a wedding cake.
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!”
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.
by Nancy McCleery
The backyard is one white sheet
Where we read in the bird tracks
Filigree threads of chickadee.
And wing patterns where one flew
Low, then up and away, gone
To the woods but calling out
Clearly its bright epigrams.
More snow promised for tonight.
The postal van is stalled
In the road again, the mail
Will be late and any good news
Will reach us by hand.
December 24, 1971
by Joseph Brodsky
– for V.S.
When it’s Christmas we’re all of us magi.
At the grocers’ all slipping and pushing.
Where a tin of halvah, coffee-flavored,
is the cause of a human assault-wave
by a crowd heavy-laden with parcels:
each one his own king, his own camel.
Nylon bags, carrier bags, paper cones,
caps and neckties all twisted up sideways.
Reek of vodka and resin and cod,
orange mandarins, cinnamon, apples.
Floods of faces, no sign of a pathway
toward Bethlehem, shut off by blizzard.
And the bearers of moderate gifts
leap on buses and jam all the doorways,
disappear into courtyards that gape,
though they know that there’s nothing inside there:
not a beast, not a crib, nor yet her,
round whose head gleams a nimbus of gold.
Emptiness. But the mere thought of that
brings forth lights as if out of nowhere.
Herod reigns but the stronger he is,
the more sure, the more certain the wonder.
In the constancy of this relation
is the basic mechanics of Christmas.
That’s what they celebrate everywhere,
for its coming push tables together.
No demand for a star for a while,
but a sort of good will touched with grace
can be seen in all men from afar,
and the shepherds have kindled their fires.
Snow is falling: not smoking but sounding
chimney pots on the roof, every face like a stain.
Herod drinks. Every wife hides her child.
He who comes is a mystery: features
are not known beforehand, men’s hearts may
not be quick to distinguish the stranger.
But when drafts through the doorway disperse
the thick mist of the hours of darkness
and a shape in a shawl stands revealed,
both a newborn and Spirit that’s Holy
in your self you discover; you stare
skyward, and it’s right there:
There’s a certain Slant of light
by Emily Dickinson
Heavenly Hurt, it gives us –
We can find no scar,
But internal difference –
Where the Meanings, are –
None may teach it – Any –
‘Tis the seal Despair –
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the Air –
When it comes, the Landscape listens –
Shadows – hold their breath –
When it goes, ’tis like the Distance
On the look of Death –
Winter is good – his Hoar Delights
Winter is good – his Hoar Delights
Italic flavor yield –
To Intellects inebriate
With Summer, or the World –
Generic as a Quarry
And hearty – as a Rose –
Invited with asperity
But welcome when he goes.
“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
by Emily Dickinson
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.
May the Light in your windows push back the Dark.
- “Winter-Time” from A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson
- “December Substitute” from When the Teacher Isn’t Looking, © 2005 by Kenn Nesbitt – Meadowbrook Press
- “December Notes” from Girl Talk, © 2002 by Nancy McCleery – Backwaters Press
- “December 24, 1971” from Collected Poems in English, 1972-1999 – © 2000 by Joseph Brodsky – Farrar, Straus and Giroux
- “There’s a certain Slant of light” from The Poems of Emily Dickinson
- “Winter is good – his Hoar Delights” from The Poems of Emily Dickinson
- ““Hope” is the thing with feathers –” from The Poems of Emily Dickinson
Robert Louis Stevenson (1850 – 1894) Scottish novelist, poet, essayist, and travel writer, best known for his novels Treasure Island, Kidnapped, Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and his children’s poetry collection A Child’s Garden of Verses
Kenn Nesbitt (1962 – ) Author of children’s poetry and song-lyrics; The Armpit of Doom: Funny Poems for Kids (2013); When the Teacher Isn’t Looking: And Other Funny School Poems (2005); in 2013, he was named Children’s Poet Laureate by the Poetry Foundation
Nancy McCleery – Author of Girl Talk, Night Muse and Staying the Winter. She grew up in Nebraska, and has lived in Alaska
Joseph Brodsky (1940 – ) Born in Leningrad, he was exiled from the Soviet Union as a dissident in 1972 after serving 18 months of a five-year sentence in a labor camp in northern Russia. Less Than One (1988), an essay collection, won the National Book Critic’s Award for Criticism. Also authored collections of poetry, including To Urania (1988) and essays about Venice, Watermark (1992). In 1987, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Emily Dickinson (1830 – 1886) American’s best-known woman poet and one of the nation’s greatest and most original authors, she lived the life of a recluse in Amherst MA
- Footprints in the snow
- Santa’s pants
- Cardinals in snowy evergreens
- Night sky in winter dusk
- Later winter afternoon in Germany
- Hoarfrost on white rose
- Nuthatch on branch in winter
- Light in the window
Word Cloud photo by Larry Cloud