The house is over-warm, seasonal temperatures ridiculously high and the winds exacerbate the heat. Dog asleep by the lit tree, the “Indie” Christmas mix mind-numbs each beating heartbeat. No gifts bought. Three days to Christmas. The toddler sleeps an afternoon nap after a quick visit to the old Mission where we saw the manger with its live animals and the church itself, rebuilt post-earthquake, reliquaries and carved statues everywhere. Ho. Ho. Ho. There are no answers in the holy water, brimful and clear. Prayers for family members near and far. Hard for the toddler to say, “Amen.”
Pens and books and the rasping buzz of the washer/dryer exacerbate the hipster’s soundtrack. Names of fruit trees appear on Post-It notes: D’Arcy Spice & Granite Beauty. Tweed hat sits angular from the desk lamp, the desk lamp without a bulb. “It’s the hap, hap, happiest time of the year…” Bullshit and bromides. Family 5000 miles away, the cold Atlantic between. Mother sits in state in a living tomb where all her obvious needs are met by smiling staff. Hallelujah. Joe Cocker’s dead and they can’t decide whether he was a genius or a wasted talent. He doesn’t care any more.
A magazine I wrote an article for sits on the floor. Haven’t cracked the spine. Fluff and nonsense. This is the year of saying no. This is the year of taking apart the fountain pen and cleaning the inner workings. They do that with the human body, too. Tag the right limb, or the correct insertion point. Sharpie—the surgeon’s best friend. Plucking of strings. Simpering song sung badly. A lighthouse caught in a swift hurricane. Paint the body. To war, to war, to war we go. Possibly the worst Christmas song ever.
A flash of electric blue. Jay in narrow garden. In the shade he plots some nefarious act. Clipper ships far to sea cut through vast swaths of water. Land of the Pygmy Mammoth. Islands are orphaned children, cut from the same cloth, yet different. A small hut whose walls are padded with dried moss to keep the winds out. Cobwebbed windows, splintered chairs, three cracked panes. Only the mice seem to notice. Things for both of us to create. Uaigneas agus buaine. The old ways are departed, the days shortest when we need light the most. And a little T.S. Eliot to end the day:
‘A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.’
And the camels galled, sorefooted, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
and running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kiking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arriving at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you might say) satisfactory.
All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.