Often, On Christmas


On Christmas

by Marion Strobel

Often, on Christmas,
I listen to a chant
Float from a colored window
Softly sibilant.

Often, on Christmas,
I wait until a glow
From a colored pane of glass
Slides across the snow.

Yet though I hear songs,
And listen from without,
I never quite know what
Christmas is about.

I never quite know –
Till, singing on my breast
And warm as a colored light,
Your head is at rest.

The idea of gift making rather than gift buying is something I wish we could wrestle away from the marketing blitz of advertising.  I received several very thoughtful gifts this year as well, all of which I am thankful but the gift that stands out is the one hand made gift.  My father made his gift for me again this year and I will always treasure it.  It is a pair of walnut wooden tongs that is brilliant in the simplicity and elegance of its design.  It is light weight, durable, functions perfectly and stores flat and easily.  I will think of him every time I use them to make bacon, serve a salad, fish out pickles and olives from a jar and admire them on my counter top.   In addition he wrote me a poem, which is brilliant in its wit and clever rhymes.  I shall maybe share it on Fourteen Lines sometime this winter.

When I was growing up, for months leading up to Christmas, I could hear my Mother sewing on her sewing machine.  Sewing clothes for all of us to wear to holiday gatherings and Church, sewing dresses for herself, sewing doll clothes for favorite dolls of my sister’s given in previous Christmases, as well as a small wardrobe of clothes for any new dolls that Santa might bring.   It was common that doll’s would receive new outfits in the left over scraps of the things that were sewn up for one of us, such that the doll would continue to wear that outfit long after we had grown out of ours.   She would mix and match scraps, with some of the fabric used to make my clothes showing up in doll clothes.

To keep this impressive production going meant many trips to the fabric store and what we called the five and dime store (Ben Franklin) and with it, opportunities to pick out that year’s ornament tree ornament kits that my sister’s and I would turn into new decorations for our own tree as well as gifts to give Grandparents and others.  There were endless kits back in those days, but lots of silk covered foam balls with a bag full of pearl handled long pins and beads of all different shapes and colors that you could thread onto the pin and then attach various pieces of sparkly sequins, beads, braided gold or silver cord or trinkets.  There was usually a several page instruction manual and these were no small undertakings to sort out all the items in the kit and then assemble them.  It would keep us busy for days. The kits were good training on how to keep yourself occupied and also how to organize your time as if the plan was to make 2 or 3 as gifts and each one took several days on weekends or evenings to make, you had to be a little disciplined in moving the projects forward in the weeks leading up to Christmas to get them all done.  The kits were a way to keep us occupied as my Mother did all the things she had to do to get ready for the holidays.  Once we were grown, probably half of my Mother and Father’s Christmas tree ornaments consisted of things we had made as kids.

This year I decided to do some paper arts as gifts, making folded paper hearts and a variation where the folded hearts were wings of an angel and gave them out as decorations.    Do you have a favorite hand made gift from this year or year’s past? What hand made gifts are part of your holiday traditions?

My Offerings

by Marion Strobel

Now that I am bringing you
Dolls of wool, and dolls of tin,
Dolls that squeak when you press in,
Rattles that you shake, or chew,

Now that toys are on your bed –
All the new ones and the old,
And the ones you like to scold,
And those to be comforted –

Now, that you are holding things
That I bring, and carefully
Breaking them – it seems to me
You approve my offerings!

Let Me Be Silent


RBG on the Christmas Tree. 

Your Sadness

by Marion Strobel (1895 – 1967)

Not because beauty is as thin and bright
In you as the white outline of a tree
In winter, but because I find delight
In the curved sadness of your lips. (I see
Pleasanter things each day, each day recall
Happy faces, laughter that knew a way
To spin senses to oblivion.) . . . All
Your words are swift upon your lips and grey
As swallows, yet I stay to listen, yet
I cannot tear myself away from you:
For in a little while you may forget
Your sadness. O no matter what I do
You may forget your sadness — O my dear
And even smile, and make the mystery clear

Marion Strobel was an associate editor of Poetry Magazine from 1920 to 1925.  She obviously was beloved at that institution, because over her lifetime Poetry Magazine published 137 of her poems.  Contrast that with Robert Frost’s mere 57 and it makes you realize how deeply connected she was in the publishing world during her career.   Strobel was associated with Poetry Magazine in some way for 45 years, accounting for her impressive achievement.  She was a novelist as well as poet and part of the voices that would go on to establish what would be called confessional poetry.  Due in part to her editorial duties, Strobel had personal relationships  with numerous writers and literary figures, including Sylvia Beach, Louise Bogan, Robert Frost, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Carl Sandberg.  I have enjoyed diving into Strobel’s poetry and look forward to exploring more.

We cut our Christmas tree at a tree farm that is run by a family for more than 50 years north of Elk River, MN yesterday.  Despite several of the usual activities being disrupted by COVID restrictions, like caroling in a horse drawn carriage,  it felt like a way of touching traditions of the past.   A fresh cut tree brings the smell of a balsam fir into the house like no other.  We’ll decorate it properly in the next couple of nights, but for one day, RBG presided over it as a guiding angel from her perch at the top.

Two Sonnets


by Marion Strobel

How can I offer you the dull, frayed song
Of love I know? Each word would stumble on
A memory; and I should see a long
Blurred line of faces grimacing upon
A musty curtain of the past . . . . Ah, no . . . .
Let me be silent . . . . Words would only sound
A monotone: a toxic, cloying flow
Of echoes would sift through, and eddy round
My voice, and all the rapture that I feel
Would turn into a harlequin and steal
Away beneath the vivid, measured hum
Of mockery.  Ah, dearest, may there come
An ecstasy of stillness in each day,
That you may sense the thoughts I dare not say!