Cold breath claws its way upward, talon over talon, out of a lung cocoon to merge with the dirty cotton candy morning. We listen to each piece of its lavender, thistle gray, and filthy white whisper the news of its exit. Beneath this flock of ragged, dingy daybreak harpies we hear the sun charging upward, chasing them away with its blazing, lustful tangerine growl.
Around bonfires reaching their hot amber fingers to the midwinter night sky, our ancestors tasted drums. Some tasted like heartbeats, or like blood, or like beer and wine once gestating inside a midsummer dream’s belly. Those evergreen drums still pulse and coruscate, hidden inside the glow of miniature lollipop colored haloes crowning each Christmas bulb or inside the diamond twinkle of planets dancing in the eye of a starry fish that heralded Jesus’ birth.
The sun dies. Every night, he leaves us, trailing crackling orange embers behind him that bust their pomegranate nectar knuckles above the skyline. We rise above the tops of the clouds to listen to their lusty, ruby-tinted, ambrosia.
Here’s to thee, old apple tree: giver of inspiration, Biblical sin, sore bumps on the head, and knowledge of the forces of nature! The eternal apples in our bellies are polished to a crimson mirror luster that still sings from ancient throats. Today’s brass-punctuated Christmas carols in the city square smell faintly of yesterday’s fermented cider sweetness and testosterone-soaked blue bacchanals.
Calendars and dollars have embedded themselves on stone, behind theater eyes, and on cardiac muscle. The clicking of shortening days dancing away from us threads puppet strings into our limbs. A mythical date is making us dance, in a rhythm opposite the red drumbeat sounded by the blood pipes inside our chests.
City sidewalks embed their gritty gray December dirges into our jaws. We yank the sounds of soot, 20 city miles-per-gallon extractions from the blood, and breath-to-neck-nape lines of shoppers during Santa’s Big Scene from our teeth and pour carols, candy, and Advent into their gaping holes to fill them. Silver bells would melt and mellow in crisp, sugar season fashion upon our weary tongues.
The Son is born, dies, and then rises to new life. Every year, He is born inside glistening red, green, and blue stories that burn and crackle diamond brilliance into our ears. And every spring, we listen to the white velvet trumpet tune of the Easter lily and the clean cotton candy blue and pink fanfares tell of how He died and resurrected, cheating the boatman out of his coins.
Written 11/26 and 11/27/2012
© 2012 Nicole Nicholson. All Rights Reserved.
This poem was written for We Write Poems Prompt #133: Listen to the sky turning raspberry red. We were encouraged to use unconventional sensory descriptions in our poem — for example, auditory descriptions of color instead of visual — which led me to think a little about synesthesia. Also, I constructed the poem in paragraphs of three “perfect” sentences — a carryover from last week’s prompt.
It also gave me an opportunity to meditate on the upcoming holidays and their meaning. Some of you might already be aware of the pre-Christian winter holidays of Saturnalia, Yule, and Dies Natalis Solis Invicti — and mostly, it is the these which have contributed to our modern Christmas traditions. Also, in the early few centuries of the Catholic Church it was common practice to hold feasts and other Christian holidays at the same time as the already existing pagan holidays in order to encourage pagans to convert to the new faith. Also, during the Christmas season, celebrations in Europe in the Middle Ages involved much partying, merrymaking, and carousing which led to some, ahem, very interesting behaviour on the part of the celebrants. As a result of this, throughout the ages Christmas has been decried as a godless, evil holiday by various folks and its celebration was even banned in Puritan-era New England. It was not until the 1800’s with events such as the popularization of the poem “The Night Before Christmas” and Charles Dickens’ novel A Christmas Carol that Christmas began to become less stimatized and more widely celebrated.
For someone raised as a Christian, these discoveries might instigate a crisis of faith and such questions as the morality of participating in Christmas celebrations. I’m learning to take a more zen approach to the whole issue. I was raised Christian, but I’ve stopped using the term and simply call myself a believer in Jesus Christ — I have a LOT of issues with organized Christianity. And because I believe in the principal of religious liberty, I do not wish to infringe upon the rights of others to worship and believe as they choose nor do I wish to judge others for the same.
You could say that this poem was an act of me lifting a veil. I hope you enjoyed it.