As my brother in Brooklyn emailed in response to the featured photo, “Nothing says Happy Holidays like hand sanitizer!” But I implore everyone to stay put and mingle with no more than a handful, outdoors, over the upcoming holidays. The post-Thanksgiving statistics coming from the USA are terrifying. I know this enforced staying apart from people can be hard, especially for the extroverts among us. But with more than 100,000 new cases PER DAY in the USA, with a projection of 200,000+ by Christmas, the hospitals simply cannot cope. The explosion of cases is, in part, due to the one million who travelled to visit family over the Thanksgiving holiday. According to data released by MSNBC journalist Rachel Maddow a couple days ago, the White House Covid Taskforce reckons that if you travelled over the Thanksgiving holiday then assume you have been infected and are infectious right now, whether you feel fine or not.
A cautionary tale for Europeans where Christmas is the big family celebration of the year.
I have been practicing writing sonnets recently, so this Tuesday’s Weekly Poem is a sonnet. And given the news it has a distinctly Covid19 Christmas theme.
Tell me what says Christmas cinematically
to you? Maybe "It's a Wonderful Life?" Or
"Die Hard?" Perhaps you crave "Love, Actually?"
"Home Alone?" Given we have had much more
than a cameo from He Who Shall Not Be Named,
who can take credit for our solitary,
Covid Christmas scenario....Hmmm. An enraged
Grinch stole it, along with many thousands of souls.
Empty chairs. Even some empty tables.
Masked, visored, in full battledress PPE,
our medics cannot stem the tide of truth. Fables
are the stuff of children's bedtime fairy tales.
Those cautioning you not to let the wolf loose
in the chicken coop. Or becoming one yourself.
Take you joy safely this holiday season. Make your happy where you can, but with very few. Stock up on you favourite films. Buy a silly Christmas mask to match you silly Santa hat. Remember that all those hospital staff valiantly trying to save the lives of those who became infected will not be spending the day with their families. They might be trying to save a member of your family.
Over much of the 365 consecutive days of writing a poem a day writing I did between September 2018 and 2019, I was awake during the early hours of darkness, alert before dawn. While I have happily back slided into more slothful habits since then, this week in the run up to Christmas has seen me waking in the dark again. This morning I had to itch to write a poem , which I have been rationing to once a week while I have tended to other projects. But this morning, with the cat who three years ago was an uncivilised feral purring at my side, I reverted to how I welcomed Christmas this time last year. Little did we know then that he was destined to become my muse. He was then an outcast, who has now come in from the cold.A little poem is my Christmas present to my readers. I am grateful to all who have faithfully commented, liked on Facebook, and kept me on task.
This will be short, but hopefully sweet, wishing you well wherever you are in the world. I hope and wish that you receive what you need and also a little of what you want. There is much in the world to grieve, either on a personal level as loved ones die or are gravely ill, or in the great collective body politic.
Yet, gather before a flame and feel its presence. As Rumi advises: This is not a caravan of despair. Tomorrow is the start of the twelve days of Christmas, or the Omen Days, as they were once called. Each day I will write a poem on what first catches my eye and heart, a portent for the month that matches the order of the days. In that way, I might have an omen for each month of 2019.
Merry Christmas to you all. You have given this blog 1000 likes as of Christmas Eve. I thank all my readers and followers for their presence here in my corner of cyber space.
Christmas, late morning- Kindling and flame - ignition Presence for presents
When I wake in the morning and go into the kitchen to make my tea, there are such lovely aromas. Annie was baking last night when I went off to bed and those lovely scents of home-baking linger. Scent is a powerful evoker of memory. Christmas time and winter tide is full of these. I have lived six decades and spent Christmas in three countries. As a child I was a stickler for tradition, but time, travel and new cultures have made me adaptable. Yet the spirit in those traditions first encountered in childhood linger in spirit. The last conversation I had with my mother, who died early in the New Year, was my gratitude for the wonderful, magical Christmases she had made. We both cried. As an adult I know she had done that on a tight budget. But it felt plentiful and abundant because each gift was so carefully chosen to match some unspoken wish.
Today’s Poetry Daily remembers.
The Great Feast
Here’s to us! Time to revel in our peace and plenty, the grace of gathering round so many. Here’s to our company! Those we love right here and now, and also absent friends and family. They feast, too.
So raise a glass, make a toast. To memory of those first ever feasts, those who decked the halls and trimmed trees, filled stockings while the house was all abed. Delicious food to share, cinnamon spiced the house and home, made all bright with lights, with love of us, me and you, love of all who come through the opened door.
Here’s to us! Here’s to them! May we all gather around, feast once more. At wintertide, we draw close, feast once more in light and love.
Christmas time can be very jolly. We meet, greet, salute and congregate. But not everyone. We consider the homeless, but there is also a legion of the lonely who are feeling excluded from all this collective jollity. This is a time of year when outsiders can really feel left out in the cold. Just like that wistful feral cat back in 2016, who finally came in from the cold last Christmas and became a fully fledged insider and household member this year. Today’s Poetry Daily considers those who may not be feeling it this Christmas tide.
At Midwinter Tide
To those who have loved and lost whether by omission or commission and for whom loneliness has become like a prison a life sentence in solitary confinement
To those who have loved and lost those dear ones those who once lifted your heart raised your pulse bathed you in the warmth of their company
At midwinter tide all that loving and giving outside is forced labour a convict's pick axe breaking stone to no purpose but to underline how much it feels alone inside
At midwinter tide there is the sun its piercing ray into a stone made box and out from the dark dawn breaks and wholly illuminates to ancestral sighes for the year's tide has turned
We are all born with such breathless hope followed by our cry
The sun does this turn year upon year all alone except for those of us who witness it along with our thoughts of those loved and lost in yesteryear all of of us this company of beloved ones
I am grateful that my body clock has had this reset,where the night owl is hooting in the winter dark hours before dawn. Truthfully, I love autumn and winter and the long hours of darkness. It does make me wonder if I will be up in the ambrosial hours making poetry at 4am during the the long days of midsummer though! It does seem like the Poetry Daily is now a fixture of my life and, having passed the three month mark of writing and posting daily there is no sign of abatement yet.
Also, I am grateful for this pre-dawn quiet, gathering time, in what is a season of overwhelment. There are guests coming and menus to be planned and provisioned. There is a concert to be rehearsed and delivered. There are greetings to be sent near and far. There are the loose ends of projects to sign off on before the Great Feast and the annual shut down that happens here in Ireland between Christmas and New Year (except if you work in retail!)
But each morning, it is just me and the snoozing old dog, and maybe a hungry cat mooching for early breakfast. I make tea and then face the blank page. I wait to see what will turn up for the Poetry Daily.
These are the quiet hours where we can hear our own heart beat in the silence and the darkness, where only dreams can speak of our loves and our losses so eloquently. They weave that tapestry from our own anxiety.
These are the quiet hours where dawn beckons and makes us wait and wait through this long, chill dark. Like good children waiting for the Big Beardy Man in a red suit and black boots we stay hushed.
This waiting time is magical. Anything, but anything might turn up! And be a gift.