Dec. 25: Before you slept

I said some words to the close and holy darkness,
and then I slept.
—from
A Child’s Christmas in Wales, Dylan Thomas

In that close and holy darkness,
yours,
may memories arise in dream form:

the wool-white bell-tongued ball
of holidays resting at the rim
of the carol-singing sea,

in a long ago, faraway place
that lives uniquely in you, one
that arrives in sleep:

the Eskimo-footed arctic marksmen
in the muffling silence of the eternal snows…

birds the color of red-flannel petticoats
[that] whisked past the harp-shaped hills…

the stories re-given, as you knew them then:

…snow grew overnight on the roofs of the houses
like a pure and grandfather moss, minutely ivied
the walls and settled on the postman,
opening the gate, like a dumb, numb
thunder-storm of white, torn Christmas cards
over the frozen foam of the powder and ice-cream hills…

You see the useful presents, the useless presents,
the uncles and, not least: …
Auntie Hannah, who liked port,
stood in the middle of the snowbound
back yard, singing like a big-bosomed thrush.

You once again with your pals who have
not aged, have not passed into mystery,
are as alive as new leaves, which lie still
under bare branches for a while yet.

You remember the words to “Good King
Wenceslas” and his feast of Stephen, and sing,
your children’s voices high and seemingly
distant in the snow-felted darkness.

It comes to you that everything was good
again and shone over the town…

which, with luck, you will bring with
you from the close and holy darkness
into wakefulness,

grateful for the lasting gifts.

(Words in italics from Dylan Thomas’ short story, “A Child’s Christmas in Wales.”
You can hear a 1952 recording of Dylan Thomas reading the story here.)

About janishaag

Writer, writing teacher, editor
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4 Responses to Dec. 25: Before you slept

  1. Carol Savoie says:

    This is exquisite thank you for all the poems! carol savoie

  2. Dick Tracy says:

    He was just six years old and on Christmas morning he was told not to open the presents under the tree Not until his mother, who worked the switchboard graveyard shift at WW II Camp Shanks.

    Another woman who worked there was staying overnight with “Dickie.” Daddy had gone away somewhere. He and mommy were not friends anymore. “May I open just one present?” Dickie asked. Mommy said OK on the phone.

    So he went to the tree and carefully lifted them. One was light enough that he thought It was clothes. So he unwrapped it, saving precious toys for later.

    Inside was a COWBOY SUIT!! It had a checkered shirt, pants with a frill. a vest with a tin star, a leather belt and a collapsed hat! He was so happy he was unable to speak or appreciate the laughter of the nice lady.

    He doesn’t remember the toys wrapped in other packages, But nearly 80 years later, living on a real ranch, he hasn’t forgotten!

    R, Tracy

  3. janishaag says:

    Mr. Tracy!

    Mr. Schmidt and I had no idea such a poet lurks inside you! This is lovely, and whether poetry or prose, it’s a jimdandy story from that child’s point of view. We delighted when that child found his cowboy suit and how that little guy grew up to marry the nice horsewoman and live on a real ranch! Just charming. Thank you for the delightful Christmas tale!

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