What I Can I Give

Giovanni di Paolo’s Adoration of the Magi, circa 1460.

 

In The Bleak Midwinter

By Christina Rossetti
 
In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.
 
Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.
 
Enough for Him, whom cherubim, worship night and day,
Breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels fall before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.
 
Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.
 
What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.


I Syng Of A Maiden

Middle English original (1400s)

I syng of a mayden
That is makeles,
king of alle kinges
to here sone che chees.

He cam also stille
Ther his moder was
As dew in Aprylle,
That fallyt on the gras.

He cam also stille
To his modres bowr
As dew in Aprylle,
That falleth on the flowr.

He cam also stille
Ther his moder lay
As dew in Aprylle,
That falleth on the spray.

Moder & mayden
Was nevere noon but she:
Well may swich a lady
Godes moder be.

Modern English version

I sing of a maiden
That is matchless,
King of all kings
For her son she chose.

He came as still
Where his mother was
As dew in April
That falls on the grass.

He came as still
To his mother’s bower
As dew in April
That falls on the flower.

He came as still
Where his mother lay
As dew in April
That falls on the spray.

Mother and maiden
There was never, ever one but she;
Well may such a lady
God’s mother be.

My Heart Is Gladder Than All Of These

Julia Kasdorf

Age is an issue of mind over matter, if you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.

Mark Twain

 

A Birthday

By Christina Rossetti

My heart is like a singing bird
Whose nest is in a water’d shoot;
My heart is like an apple-tree
Whose boughs are bent with thickset fruit;
My heart is like a rainbow shell
That paddles in a halcyon sea;
My heart is gladder than all these
Because my love is come to me.

Raise me a dais of silk and down;
Hang it with vair and purple dyes;
Carve it in doves and pomegranates,
And peacocks with a hundred eyes;
Work it in gold and silver grapes,
In leaves and silver fleurs-de-lys;
Because the birthday of my life
Is come, my love is come to me.


My Mother would have turned 89 this week.   Despite having lived to an age beyond what her parents and sisters experienced, it feels like she died young at 83 for a person who was as vibrant as her right up until the end.  Her death combined with COVID has changed my fall and winter routines.  Normally October is the beginning of theater season, with both her or I having secured tickets to ballets, and plays and concerts to look forward to throughout the fall and winter season and to help carry us through the coldest months to spring.   It seems like a foreign concept right now, the idea of attending live events.   The Rolling Stones tour came to Minneapolis last night and by all accounts put on a good show.   Its funny to think that Mick Jagger is closer in age to my Mother than to me.  But my Mother was a rock star in her own right. 

I am not sure if I am getting better with dealing with loss with age but I seem more resigned to it these days.   A new puppy arrived at our farm over the weekend.  A 7 1/2  week old golden retriever puppy that if all goes as planned will become a breeding female for a service dog program in the future.   I haven’t had a puppy in my life for 20 years, so it is feeling like we have a new born infant in the house again.   It is also a reminder on how fast our lives move by.  This puppy will carry me into my 70’s.  For now it is a confident ball of fluff that has the entire household on its tip toes, her 12 year old golden retriever brother genuinely enjoying showing the puppy the ropes, but also a little jealous at all the attention going the puppies direction.  Tasha the cat is a bit grumpy but will come around.  I have never seen a puppy this confident, a puppy so quick to adapt to its new environment.  Her name is Vida – life!   And she is just what our household needed this fall.    


What I Learned From My Mother

By Julia Kasdorf

I learned from my mother how to love
the living, to have plenty of vases on hand
in case you have to rush to the hospital
with peonies cut from the lawn, black ants
still stuck to the buds. I learned to save jars
large enough to hold fruit salad for a whole
grieving household, to cube home-canned pears
and peaches, to slice through maroon grape skins
and flick out the sexual seeds with a knife point.
I learned to attend viewings even if I didn’t know
the deceased, to press the moist hands
of the living, to look in their eyes and offer
sympathy, as though I understood loss even then.
I learned that whatever we say means nothing,
what anyone will remember is that we came.
I learned to believe I had the power to ease
awful pains materially like an angel.
Like a doctor, I learned to create
from another’s suffering my own usefulness, and once
you know how to do this, you can never refuse.
To every house you enter, you must offer
healing: a chocolate cake you baked yourself,
the blessing of your voice, your chaste touch.

As Yes Is To If

Christina Rossetti (1830 – 1894)

Nothing recedes like progress.

e. e. cummings

nothing false and possible is love

by e. e. cummings
 
nothing false and possible is love
(who’s imagined,therefore is limitless)
love’s to giving as to keeping’s give;
as yes is to if,love is to yes

 

must’s a schoolroom in the month of may:
life’s the deathboard where all now turns when
(love’s a universe beyond obey
or command,reality or un-)

proudly depths above why’s first because
(faith’s last doubt and humbly heights below)
kneeling,we-true lovers-pray that us
will ourselves continue to outgrow

all whose mosts if you have known and i’ve
only we our least begin to guess


Come Back To Me

Christina Rossetti (1830 – 1894)

Come back to me, who wait and watch for you –
Or come not yet, for it is over then,
And long it is before you come again,
So far between my pleasures are and few.
While, when you come not, what I do I do
Thinking “Now when he comes,” my sweetest when:
For one man is my world of all the men
This wide world holds; O love, my world is you.
Howbeit, to meet you grows almost a pang
Because the pang of parting comes so soon;
My hope hangs waning, waxing, like a moon
Between the heavenly days on which we meet:
Ah me, but where are now the songs I sang
When life was sweet because you call’d them sweet?

As Tree By Enterprise and Expedition

IMG_7668
Burl Ives – Silver and Gold

To A Young Wretch

by Robert Frost

As gay for you to take your father’s ax
As take his gun – rod – to go hunting – fishing.
You nick my spruce until its fiber cracks,
It gives up standing straight and goes down swishing.
You link arm in its arm and you lean
Across the light snow homeward smelling green.

I could have bought you just as good a tree
To frizzle resin in a candle flame,
And what a saving it would have meant to me.
But tree by charity is not the same
As tree by enterprise and expedition.
I must not spoil your Christmas with contrition.

It is your Christmases against my woods.
But even where, thus, opposing interests kill,
They are to be thought of as opposing goods
Oftener than as conflicting good and evil;
Which makes the war god seem no special dunce
For always fighting on both sides at once.

And though in tinsel chain and popcorn rope
My tree, a captive in your window bay,
Has lost its footing on my mountain slope
And lost the stars of heaven, may, oh, may
The symbol star it lifts against your ceiling
Help me accept its fate with Christmas feeling.


I was recently informed that only men over the age of 50 still watch Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer. I often watch it more than once during the holidays, so I fit the type casting. I have such positive memories around the gentle humor of Rudolph. It is a love story of misfits and many of us feel a bit like a misfit at Christmas.

I am well along in my holiday preparations. My Tom’s best of music CD for 2019 is complete in figuring out the two CD set and the CD’s nearly completely burned, I have to finish printing covers and put them together.  My Tom’s best of poetry for 2019 is figured out, the poems selected and the pages nearly completely printed. I need to finish making covers and then bind them together.  It all feels doable by Christmas. One more night of watching Rudolph while working on gifts and I will have it all done.  I hope you indulge yourself in holiday traditions and sentimental journeys and a bit of gift making. Happy Holidays.

 

Love Came Down At Christmas

By Christina Rossetti

Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, love divine;
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and angels gave the sign.

Worship we the Godhead,
Love incarnate, love divine;
Worship we our Jesus:
But wherewith for sacred sign?

Love shall be our token,
Love shall be yours and love be mine,
Love to God and to all men,
Love for plea and gift and sign.

Into The Silent Land

Mom Twins Game May 2014
My Mother at Target Field 2015

Remember

by Christina Rossetti (1830 – 1894)

Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
You tell me of our future that you plann’d:
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.


Tomorrow is my Mother’s birthday and also the second anniversary of the internment of her ashes at Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis. She would be loving the MLB playoffs this year; high quality, tight dramatic games being played night after night. I miss those phone calls to rehash her favorite moments during the playoffs and talk about her favorite players. She was not a casual fan, my Mother brought genuine insight and knowledge to her passion for the game. She would often call me up in the middle of a game and ask; “Do you see that?” And often, I hadn’t until I saw it through her eyes.

It’s hard to find poems that truly represent your own personal thoughts on death. i don’t agree with most of Rossetti’s sentiments in her sonnet Remember, in fact I think she has it all ass backwards. I think it far better to remember and be sad as part of the grieving process.  Grief is a journey, it is not a destination.  Sadness is not an illness to be avoided it is part of loving and being loved. For me there are equal parts gladness mixed with sadness that balance the fond memories I have of my Mother. I shared a much longer blog entry a year ago, along with several poems that were part of my process in channeling my grief shortly after her death. My Mother is still a vital energy in my life and a constant presence.  My sonnet,  My True Verse remains true for me today.

I found The Spritely Dead by Oscar Williams fascinating, this sonnet having gotten under my skin this week, I have read it several times, enjoying more with each reading.  His imagery and ideas are vibrant, the concept that we see all around us reminders of the dead, sometimes even more frequently it feels than when they were alive.  Do you have a favorite poem of mourning or grief?   Please share, I welcome your comments.


 

The Spritely Dead

by Oscar Williams (1900 – 1964)

There was a man within our tenement
Who died upon on a worn down step of day :
The wreath they hung on the doorway meant
That there was nothing else for him to do.
But he was obstinate, he would not rest :
He dragged the flesh of silence everywhere
On crippled wings, and we would hear him whir
While on our memories sill his eyes would roost,
We saw him wring his thoughts in deep despair
And stamp the color from our backyard scene :
Careless, without his body, he would peer
To find out if we noticed this new sin.
He was afraid, afraid : He climbed our vines
And hid, on hands and knees, along our veins.