Things, Things, Magnificent Things

The mysteries of from whence we came to here
and of where we will shortly go
are the stuff of stories we make up
and then pretend to know.
We take offence and build a fence
and finally a wall
to block our view of things we think
matter little or not at all.
But how do we know? In truth we don’t.
The most important things
might be the things that are not things:
the smile a kindness brings
and also, on the debit side,
the damage from a frown.
How often in our carelessness
we let our friendship drown
because of things that we imbue,
by thinking, with the power
to make us glad for evermore
or, more likely, for half an hour.

Care Too Late

Smoke hangs over deep cold waters
fed by tumbling mountain streams.
Bears and otters watch the smokestacks
stain the mist banks. Gaia dreams.

Gaia dreams of when the planet
was a place that species shared.
Gaia struggles with her nightmare
remembering when events had paired

one sort, humans, with the power
to learn how to force their will
on at first a few small moments.
Now they’re monsters growing shrill

in her dreams and in the actual
world that she sees sickening.
Gaia names the man-made monsters:
agriculture, splicing genes,

fashions leaving reason lonely,
cities rising, streets encroaching
everywhere until there’s only
room for humans, rats, and roaches.

Gaia needs man’s inspiration
like a corpse requires new clothes.
She deplores the susurration
of what human beings propose.

‘Bigger, better, obsolescence,’
cries man-built society.
Gaia, half drunk, acquiesced once.
Now she sees finality.

‘Cute when little,’ she describes them.
‘They make garbage of the world.’
She deplores their profit-plagued whirl
that’s left nature injured, curled.

‘Volcanoes I unleash will purge them,’
Gaia hopes. She is too late.
The molten flares can’t be a diadem
restoring what’s been lost to fate.

In a park paved by a president
who like Caligula adored death,
a badger poisoned by his words,
succumbing, cries with its last breath:

‘Gaia, save us, save yourself.
See the solution, pull the plug.’
Squirrels and badgers line the shelf
of creatures killed off. Gaia’s shrug

chokes on itself. She starts and wakes.
She calls the few still listening people.
She tells them what salvation takes.
She knows their faiths require a steeple,

something church-like: she tells stories
painting pictures of redemptions,
of women causing renewed glories.
Gaia and people share pretensions

that it’s not too late to save
what was beauty and in balance.
Armies march. Dictators rave.
Valour reaches to the valence

but no further. Hope expires.
Life itself, the constant wonder,
leaves the lakes and woods and shires.
Even microbes expire under

the weight of waste that’s gone before.
Moon-like, dead Earth gyrates senseless
unaware that once it wore
all the gifts that gods in endlessbouts of generosity gave
to a rock that spins in orbit
of the sun star—now a grave
with no one left to write its obit.

Christmas Eve Again, Thank God

All the stores close their registers, bolt their glass doors.
All the shoppers go home, except one who explores
the car park for hoof prints, for he’s hoping to find
the traces of reindeer. They have left him behind.

He’d stopped for one eggnog, and he had the worst luck,
for who should be sitting in the Feather and Duck?
His mate from the Navy, drinking sloe gin and lime.
They ranted old chanteys and he lost track of time.
They rejigged the hornpipe then they spliced the main brace.
As dusk came his buddy fell flat on his face.

He’d paid both their tabs from his good buddy’s cash,
left a note in his vest, ‘Don’t go throw up the sash.’
Now amok in the car park, casting light with his nose,
he attracts folks’ attention. They notice his clothes,
his felt-padded belly, fin de siècle high boots.
‘Hey, dude, you and Batman, are you two in cahoots?’

Déjà vu thoughts, history that’s happened before,
make him run to a diner, make him pound on its door.
‘Let me in. You will like me, for giving’s my bag.’

‘Come in, Hansel.’ His greeter’s a grotty old hag
who jerks him inside, saying, ‘You’re safe here from harm.
Oh, I so loved your sister, especially her arm.’

As gingerly, quietly, he breaks from her grip
to go dash up her chimney, surprised at his clip,
he notes he’s so agile it must be a gift.

‘Gift’ causes him panic as his redlined mind shifts
to the job he’s been trusted with: flying the skies
bringing presents to children. ‘My reindeer!’ he cries.
‘They’ve deserted me sadly. This evening will go
to the dogs like some royals I press-release know.
To the pits like some pols who this year gained their fat
by skinning poor peasants and avoiding the VAT.
I’m running on empty while the men who run guns
pay for adverts portraying them as better than nuns.
The guardians of Gaia have lost every round
this year to consumers, while sly pundits have found
silver linings invented to draw oohs and ahhs
from the rabble (that’s me) who could care less because
we can’t find clear targets for to focus our rage
and beliefs are derided. Pedestrian age!’

As his cri de cœur echoes through uncaring streets
an angel approaches, bearing kindness and sweets.
She embraces the sad man: ‘You’re muddled and lost.
All the chances we’ve sent you are toys you’ve tossed
from your crib into the river. You’ve tried not to soar.
You’re a raving lost tot. Never mind ‘never more.’
Here’s a new chance for Christmas (its meaning, you know).
Here’s a sleigh, brand new reindeer, and a leg up. Now go.
To the top of your courage, to the end of the mall,
to the places you dream of. I will let you fall,
but I won’t let it hurt you the grey, deadly way
that not caring shells you. Go out now, and play.’

As his angel departs him, he straightens his spine,
then whistles his eight deer, perhaps they are nine.
‘It’s Christmas, me hearties, and we’re ready for flight.
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!’

Christmas Fire Cat

I threw a crumb of cheeses into the fire
and logs fell over. Flames licked blue. Pine snapped.

The tiny crumb, a molten mote no higher
than the hat on the flea on the elf’s coat, flared and mapped
itself into a shadow flash that flew
on flue wards, a one-molecule fondue
that no one noted except the elf, and me,
and the flea in her tiny too-tight Christmas hat.
What spirit of the hearth had set it free?

‘’Twas me,’ the smoke spoke, arched, became a cat.

The flea, the elf, and I stared at the cat.
Though it heard the flea’s faint ‘How’d you do that?’ shout,
at first the cat ignored us while it sat
and licked its fur, the burned bits winking out.
Then it sized us up and I thought I saw it smile.

‘I’m the Christmas Cat, and I’ve come to help you while
away the hours that fuel this Christmas Eve.
You spent the morning driving yourselves to near
depression pricing presents, and then came home to grieve.
Not one of you remembers Christmas cheer.’

‘I do,’ the elf said. ‘When younger, I believed
that the dirty old man I helped was Santa Claus.
He told me, ‘Here’s your bonus, up this sleeve,’
and he took advantage. I still see his paws…’

‘You are making that up, you naughty lying twit!’
the cat hissed, clawing where the elf would sit.

But the elf, even quicker, hung himself from the mantel with care,
so the cat, saving face, confronted the Yule flea and me.
‘Today in the sun when you three were enjoying the air,’
she asked, ‘did you think beyond lunch and the beach and the sea?’

The flea in her too-tight hat piped, ‘I remember
when the snow would grow, and you would tell us stories.’

The Christmas Cat thought hard on that. An ember
in her fur glowed gold. ‘Ghosts,’ the flea said. ‘Glories.’

The cat purred, pleased as gin becomes with lime.
‘Listen,’ she said. ‘Once upon a time…’

And the elf re-joined the little Yule flea and me
while we stared the fire down and listened to the cat
as she retold old tales: Nativity,
and mistletoe hunts, and more nearly as good as that.

Christmas ‘Eve’ on Spanish Hill

Yeats’ priest persists in baying at my moon
or is it me, too soon exposed to dogs,
who hears the curate and the canine in
each night sound starting black bats from the bogs?

I hug my hands together till the cold
they nursed in solitude begins to thaw.
I tell myself the quietly moving shade
that paces me cannot be what I saw

or thought I saw: Two moons split up the clouds.
The rift revealed the outline of a man
as tall as Yeats was, ragged-edged and wide
enough to be three men, and a wagon span

of oxen boxed with Borax mules for a child
who still believes in Christmas, or in life.
And he or it, or maybe they, all float
up to the here-and-now where fear runs rife.

Some other things cry carols in the mist.
I know the tunes and no one knows the words
or even what the language ought to be
when maidens sing this while the hero girds

his loins to keep them maidens. There’s a lapse
of feeling, tone gets lowered, and the breeze
is a kaleidoscope: all different songs
that I hum with trepidation till I sneeze

and draw the shade’s attention. ‘It is time.’
Its words make me believe again in life
and hope to have some years of it ahead.
The moons illuminate the shade’s Buck knife;

it swings to cut my no’s off and I’m swung
up on the spirit’s back and into space,
and we’re travelling to a linen children’s book
and though its pages, to a secret place.

A golden mountain, talking sheep, a king
and wizards wearing hobbit boots appear
and disappear as pages turn and blur
my vision, or is this mist spun from tears?

‘Behold the wonder,’ a cold voice says.
‘Remember when your world was yours and new
because you thought it so, when you believed?
What happened to it when you thought you grew?’

I see his knife grow handles like a scythe,
and other stories I had stopped believing
come tumbling from an index in my head;
but, even as I cower, the shade’s leaving

and the tome is closing. Collar follows sound
and I’m between the covers of a book
as big and dead as London after hours
and Fagin steals the light each place I look.

And then a tiny toddling chubby sprite
got up in diapers gets up from a crib
and sings the song that Cher sang on that ship
and tells me, ‘Hurry, mortal! Don this bib,’

which makes such little sense of course I do
in hopes that if it’s meaningless, I dream.
‘The hope of your existence!’ Baby says.
‘What scares you so that waking makes you scream?’

‘Why do you act the mummy while you’re living?
Why toss each chance for action on the skip?
You’re courting Death, impression that you’re giving
him, standing head down planning to jump ship.’

I rush to answer: ‘Baby, Sophocles
was write that knowledge brings us gnawed-butt grief.’
The sprite rejoins, ‘I’d like to help you (spell)
but time is up. You’re due to meet my chief.’

More through miasma than through guided flight
we jingle through a jungle of near bliss,
of random joys and broken toys and eyes
made large by Kohl or larger by smack’s kiss

and always Baby hurries onward shouting
‘Don’t you love it, Bubba honey? This is life!’
until the moon refocuses on lawns
where squads troop colours paced by drum and fife.

Tired out, I want to fall but find I’m prone
upon the ground and also to one-liners
and to iambic lines made of ten words
and to Pentecostal virgins, dragons, Shriners

and fatty foods and heavy wines and coolers
propped full with bonefish filleted on ice.
I’m warming to my own made-up religions
when Baby says, ‘We’re here.’ I hear ‘That’s nice’.

Those last two words reveal and introduce
a Voice that I always, always dream
that I will hear and fall in love with, and I do.
Hummingbirds tongue treacle from the stars
and sing it onto Dali’s roof as glue

that anchors tiger paws in Cadaqués
while all their maws meow here at the Falls
and oranges blossom, as I turn to face
this chief muse, goddess, woman who enthrals

me, turns my leaving doubts to shouts of joy
that I drink in silence, laving every part
until like heated helium I fly up
to join her in adventures of the heart.

I hope I wake before I die to write
the strange and joyous things I see tonight.
If I should wake before I die I’ll live
somewhere forever with my Christmas ‘Eve.’