Annual Christmas Poem Revision for the Tenth Day of Christmas

You know, yes, that Christ’s Mass begins on the 25th of Dec?  That all that comes before equals Advent?  And that in some Catholic countries they still save presents for 6th Jan, Epiphany, the day (supposedly) We Three Kings came to the baby  Jesus with their gifts?

And you know, don’t you, that people have complained about the jangle of commercialization of Christmas almost since Dickens invented the modern holiday we all know and some decry?

Just checking.  I’m a TEACHER, you know. Pa rum pum pum pum.

Every year, I take out this orphan-child poem of mine, “I Don’t Believe in Christmas” and polish it up, adding, subtracting, till I grow weary of it and stuff it away into the cyber equivalent of the old cardboard box up in the attic.  This year I made some progress.  Here ya go.  And Merry Christmas, still:

I don’t believe in Christmas
(American disease),
this chance to flaunt our
less-than-seemly sides
and they are Legion.

It seems at other seasons
I embrace a jangling sound
a klaxon-call to wake
me from this stupor of
the everyday; yes, usually
let bells ring out
however rusty, but

just noise now jars me into
cringing in December din,
clanging in my ear
like old regret or
all that’s left behind by too-long days,
that sigh and lapse, wholly give in
to nothing like
a silent night.

No. “Advent” rings much truer and
I like that Latin sound of it
Ad-ventus—“coming towards us,” and
encroaching, yes, infringing, even
with an almost hostile sense as
Something slouches towards me with
a power of unmaking or,
at very least,
upsetting all the tables
in my temple.
A slouching, stumbling Something or
Someone.

Yes, I do believe in that,
I do indeed believe in

breaking in and entering, yes, this
little Burglar, yes, this
ragged Baby breaking in
and catching us
all off our guard and
smelling slightly of a stable.

And now I wonder if that Advent of
the Christ-child might right now have
something strange and true to say,
have more to do with me
than I supposed, to all of this commercial jingle,
bells of registers, yes.
Maybe Advent still can speak
Into this not-so-holiday much more than
I supposed:

For He too, (tiny-handed) clutches,
grasping at the world, and catching
at my sleeve like twelve too many shoppers
lunging for the latest thing, for something to latch onto.

He must have screamed that starry night,
squalled at the world like nothing more than
angry, ardent customers, their
silver clutched in fists, jaws set
thin socks cold-wet with rain:
small wonder they’d be angry.

Small wonder.  Yes of course.
And so I see a way,
two common qualities,
how I might hold to Advent
and keep Christmas in my head.

It takes outrage, of course, both then as now
we all know outrage, us as He.
And as another winter swirls
this sense of something gone so wrong
hangs on us like old ornaments
like tiny lights that flicker out,
or like a slightly acrid
stable smell.

But from the straw Small Wonder,
still and silent as the night appears
to help us loose all that we clutch
and cling to, to embrace instead
that thing we least expected, this strange gift
so strangely wrapped as it arrives.

Small Wonder seems so opposite to
all that I think I need
As does a beggar at a feast
(as does the thought of me
down on my knees),
as do good tidings of great joy
declared to dirty men
while working graveyard yet somehow
with weather eye turned heaven-ward.

And it shows to maybe all of us
(who stumble through this pageant as we
mumble carols, eat too much)
it shows us (maybe) that belief
means little more than doing dirty work
with one eye to the sky
and somehow still see well enough
to drop it all, and to be found
night-weary in that stable
where we surely don’t belong, yet where
the outrage of small wonder draws
A heaving, little, peaceful sigh
then settles down to sleep.

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