BALLAD OF THE LAST HIPPIE CHRISTMAS by Diane di Prima
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