Sonnet in the Shape of a Potted Christmas Tree
by George Starbuck
Let the wild wind erect
bonbonbonanzas; junipers affect
frostyfreeze turbans; iciclestuff adorn
all cuckolded creation in a madcap crown of horn!
It’s a new day; no scapegrace of a sect
tidying up the ashtrays playing Daughter-in-Law Elect;
bells! bibelots! popsicle cigars! shatter the glassware! a son born
while ox and ass and infant lie
together as poor creatures will
and tears of her exertion still
cling in the spent girl’s eye
and a great firework in the sky
drifts to the western hill.
Heading into the final days before Christmas I am trying to be upbeat. I have much to be grateful for this year. And yet, even a vastly toned down version of my normal Christmas cheer feels a bit overdone. 2020 is going to take some time to process. How are you processing all that has happened in 2020? Has your creativity been fueled or stunted by the dislocation of the pandemic? For me it has been a year of getting up everyday and trying to move forward with little energy for creativity. I am grateful for whatever small bit survived along the way.
I wrote A Christmas Sonnet over Thanksgiving weekend. It is not a great poem, but it feels genuine. I think there are good things that have come out of 2020’s toughest moments. It feels like we took a tiny faltering step forward as a nation of recognizing systemic racism for what it is, despite the failure of our leadership in our federal government. It feels like change is coming as an organic outgrowth of individuals and organizations searching their conscience and trying to do not necessarily “the” right thing but something better than silence or ignorance. The fact that multiple sports teams changed their names from something blatantly disrespectful and racist is a tangible example, even if they haven’t figured out what the new name is going to be. The fact that monuments to a racist, slave owning past are being taken down and towns are acknowledging their part in that history in ways that do not glorify it, because there never had been glory in those institutions that warranted memorializing it in bronze, is a start to a conversation around actual reparations. The fact that state flags are being changed to forge a new symbol away from the cultural identity of hate is a good thing. Change is hard. It’s painful. Not everyone is going to peacefully join in. But the herd has moved in a direction away from status quo and there is no stopping it now, no matter how much white privilege objects. These birth pangs of moving towards a more equitable future is worth it even if its still in its infancy and screaming its head off because its hungry.
I do not believe poetry has one interpretation. Poems have as many different meanings as people who read them, which is why I find literary criticism an inherently suspect enterprise. I believe poetry by its very nature is a personal language of an individual that by its public sharing creates a thread of common humanity regardless of what other readers take from it.
I chose the words of A Christmas Sonnet carefully. They represent as best as words can how I feel right now. I generally enjoy Christmas. But I have been wresting with how I reconcile the pleasant traditions and memories of my past with the reality of the things that are completely broken in our society today and have been for hundreds of years? How do I allow those two things to live peacefully in my mind side by side? I haven’t figured that out yet. For now I have decided the best I can do is to not create an emotional moat around the memorabilia of Christmas past and pretend it is above the pain of Christmas present. Instead I will welcome that pain and confusion into the emotional mix and stir it up in the holiday pot and let the two co-exist, hoping that it brings a clearer ownership on my part in moving forward in the right direction next year. And if nothing else, it feels authentic to seek redemption from things that represent the good of what was in the past, even when in some ways it represents the white blindness of my suburban childhood experience.
A Christmas Sonnet
By T. A. Fry
I would like to think I am not too old
For magic. This year’s endless tragedies,
Hunger, Fire, Floods, Injustice, Death, Disease,
Ran rough-shod o’er my nostalgic soul.
Will New Year’s bells ring as clear? Will hanging
Stockings, trimming trees, blot out blatant lies?
Fascists mocking humility, raging
At democracy in their bright red ties.
My grateful Christmas spirit’s still alive.
Despite the horrors; George Floyd’s death,
A pandemic stalking loved one’s breath,
Our compact frayed, but for now, survives.
I’ll honor the flesh of “I Can’t Breathe,”
Redeeming childhood crèche and Christmas wreath.