It likes me well—December’s breath, Although its kiss be cold, Nor yet the year is sealed in death, ‘Tis only growing old.
Nor yet the brooks have ceased to run, The rivers freely flow, And over flowerless fields the sun Still wreathes a roseate glow.
In stranded boats the children creep To wait the coming tide, And watch the foaming breakers leap Upon the meadow’s side.
The year is dying, ay, is dead, But yet December’s breath A glory and a glow can shed Irradiating death.
by Henry G. Hewlett
An old man’s life, dim, colorless and cold, Is like the earth and sky December shows. The barest joys of sense are all he knows: Hope that erewhile made their fruition bold, Now soars beyond. If one sun-glint of gold, Rifts in the dense grey firmament disclose, Earth has enough. ‘Mid purple mist up-throws The birch her silver; the larch may hold With fragile needles yet its amber cone, Tho’ other trees be dark: the pine alone, Like memory, lingers green, till over all, Death-like, the snow doth cast its gentle pall. Child-month and Mother-year in death are one: The winds of midnight moan memorial.
Old Christmas card photos show us how we’ve aged, reminding us that, though time may curve in Einstein’s physics, in our small life it is a straight line to white hair and bifocals.
Try to Waken and Greet the World Once Again
by James Wright (1927 – 1980)
In a pine tree, A few yards away from my window sill, A brilliant blue jay is springing up and down, up and down, On a branch. I laugh, as I see him abandon himself To entire delight, for he knows as well as I do That the branch will not break.
The House of Hospitalities
by Thomas Hardy (1840 – 1928)
Here we broached the Christmas barrel, Pushed up the charred log-ends; Here we sang the Christmas carol, And called in friends.
Time has tired me since we met here When the folk now dead were young. Since the viands were outset here And quaint songs sung.
And the worm has bored the viol That used to lead the tune, Rust eaten out the dial That struck night’s noon.
Now no Christmas brings in neighbours, And the New Year comes unlit; Where we sang the mole now labours, And spiders knit.
Yet at midnight if here walking, When the moon sheets wall and tree, I see forms of old time talking, Who smile on me.
At a certain point all writing is political, whether the writer realizes it or not, because it positions itself a certain angle. It stands, whether it likes it or not, in relation to its time.
At the Solstice
by Sean O’Brien
We say Next time we’ll go away, But then the winter happens, like a secret
We’ve to keep yet never understand As daylight turns to cinema once more:
A lustrous darkness deep in ice-age cold, And the print in need of restoration
Starting to consume itself With snowfall where no snow is falling now.
Or could it be a cloud of sparrows, dancing In the bare hedge that this gale of light
Is seeking to uproot? Let it be sparrows, then, Still dancing in the blazing hedge,
Their tender fury and their fall, Because it snows, because it burns.
For the past couple of years I am in a race with the start of winter and the on-set of cold weather, a rush to see how many outdoor projects I can finish. This year I discovered, late in the fall, the solution for a problem that had been vexing me all summer, just as the number of days above freezing were dwindling. I had ordered screens for the windows I had installed a year ago back in May, and the brand name company who made them apparently has decided to stop making screens, because my order was never completed. Then in late November, I realized there were stock storm windows available at my local building supply store that would fit my windows, with just a minor clever tweak at instillation. After buying one to prove my theory correct, we bought three more and got them in last weekend. Now I am tempted to try and get two more on the second story of the north side of the house, where the wind blows, this coming Sunday, but it means making many trips up and down a ladder in the cold. The question I ponder – is it worth it?
Increasingly, that seems to be a question I ask myself about a lot of things that pull at me lately, wanting my attention and time? Is it worth it? I think the answer is yes, but it’s going to be miserable, or at best uncomfortable, like many of the other things I contemplate that very same question. Life is not made up of a series of tasks that are pleasant. Someone has to muck out the stalls, clean the cat pan, suffer through another boring TEAMs meeting on the very same topic as the previous week by the inept project lead who can’t seem to take notes or make decisions. Life is a slog these days more often than not. How does one wax the sleds so that life pulls a little easier or even glides ever so slightly downhill once again?
One of the blessings of Fourteen Lines, is that I have come to appreciate poets that I had glossed over years before. Robert Frost is one such poet. The deeper I read Frost the more I enjoy his perspective. Maybe I am finally catching up to him. I have read this poem a few winters, considering it. But it wasn’t until this week that several lines jumped off the page and grabbed me. I appreciate Frost extending a literary hand and pulling me closer. For those of us that experience an actual winter, it can become a time, to come in out of the cold and ponder the stores in our cellar.
A light he was to no one but himself Where now he sat, concerned with he knew what, A quiet light, and then not even that.
An Old Man’s Winter Night
by Robert Frost
All out of doors looked darkly in at him Through the thin frost, almost in separate stars, That gathers on the pane in empty rooms. What kept his eyes from giving back the gaze Was the lamp tilted near them in his hand. What kept him from remembering what it was That brought him to that creaking room was age. He stood with barrels round him—at a loss. And having scared the cellar under him In clomping there, he scared it once again In clomping off;—and scared the outer night, Which has its sounds, familiar, like the roar Of trees and crack of branches, common things, But nothing so like beating on a box. A light he was to no one but himself Where now he sat, concerned with he knew what, A quiet light, and then not even that. He consigned to the moon,—such as she was, So late-arising,—to the broken moon As better than the sun in any case For such a charge, his snow upon the roof, His icicles along the wall to keep; And slept. The log that shifted with a jolt Once in the stove, disturbed him and he shifted, And eased his heavy breathing, but still slept. One aged man—one man—can’t fill a house, A farm, a countryside, or if he can, It’s thus he does it of a winter night.