There was a time, the air was thin

The wind was mighty cold

The winter grass lay on the hills

It looked all sere and old.


There was a time, the days were short

All grisly was the sky

The winter days they hung ahead

They made this poet cry.


There was a day, the rain came down

The herring swam the bay

The fog it covered field and town

The wind howled night and day.


Well, Merry Christmas! said the kids

They ate the pantry dry.

And Happy New Year too, they said

There’s many fish to fry.


They fried the herring from the Bay

They ate 300 clams

They climbed the hill across the way

And tented with the lambs.


“O shall I kill a lamb,” she cried

“Or shall I kill a cow?

‘Tis Christmas Day’s a-comin’

They’ll expect a feast, and how!


“O lovers and husbands will arrive

and fathers of all my cubs

and Diggers and dancers and dealers with chicks

who also eat plenty of grub.


“First Solstice, then it’s Christmas Eve

That’s how the days go by

No time to collage or write a poem

No time to even try!


“Tis tired I am of sauté-ing the ‘shrooms

With saffron and heavy cream

Of basting the turkey and candying yams

I’m so sick of it I could scream!


“Time was the men had plenty of bread

And time was when they had none.

Time was when I hid them all from the law

Can’t say I found it much fun!”


Now the poet she had a good neighbor

Who lived off the fat of the sea

“O Clayton, dear Clayton,” I heard her say

“Please feed these kids for me.


“I’m going to San Francisco

A woman needs time to play

So Clayton, my friend, fake a Christmas of sorts

With whatever comes out of the Bay.”


She’s taken her rusted-out Rover

And headed in toward town

The wind swept the sea across Route 1

And many a tree blew down.


She’s suddenly braked her Rover

With all its headlights all ablaze

A Figure tall stood astride the road

In sooth she was amazed.


“Go back, you dismal Poet

And serve the Solstice Feast

Of all the tasks we could demand

This is surely now the least.


“Tis the last time you’ll sit you down

With these friends at your board

The sea awash beneath your house.

Ken you not the gifts of the Lord?


“‘Tis the last time you’ll sit you down

With your children all shiny-eyed

The fresh baked bread, the herring scrod

The sausages neatly fried.


“The tide will not sweep forever

Under your dining room floor

The too-early Christmas mornings

Will come to your house no more.


“For your friends they will be scattered

By pestilence, law and the gun

And these enchanted children

Will awaken one by one.”


Was it angel or elemental

Storm demon or spirit guide?

The poet at once was stone sober

She sat in her car and cried.


She turned her car on that narrow road

She drove in the rain to her door

And began the rites of the dark of the year

That she’d done many times before.


She lit the Solstice candles

And poured the Solstice wine

She fixed the eel for Christmas Eve

So everyone might dine.


She wrapped a hundred presents

And set them beneath a tree

She woke an hour later

To the shouts of her youngest three.


They played with a hundred presents

Left them scattered on the floor.

The grown-ups began arriving

She met each one at the door.


And as they sat at table

She scanned each happy face

And wondered where they’d be next year

What joy? What other place?


O some would be in prison

Some in hospital would lie

Some friends would flee beyond the sea

And some of them would die.


“Oh little and little I knew,” she thought

“When I sought to leave these chores

How quickly then they come to an end

And can never be done no more.”


Friends coming in from far distance

Is this not a delight?

And the tattered sky and raging sea

Are our blessing before the Night.



Copyright-2003-Diane di Prima

Posted on January 6, 2011, in Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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