In the fall of 1989, I was living in Washington D.C. and had purchased a cassette tape of A Child’s Christmas in Whales from a record store on Wisconsin Ave, which I listened to while falling asleep at night. A paid intern at the DSCC, I had some time on my hands during the day, and started composing some prose/poems in that vein. Nov. 22, 1989 was done on or around my birthday, shortly followed by Thursdays in Late November and a few other “Work Songs”. Obviously no comparison to Dylan Thomas, (nor sucessful in wooing “cousin Liz”, on whom I had a crush at the time), they nevertheless seem to capture somewhat of an Impressionistic notion of the time, the place, and my favorite holiday:
Thursdays in Late November.
The snow it shimmered smiling windy whistled to the ground, tomorrow last of days I’ve waited now, the slippery sidewalks hold me up somehow; my cousins come tomorrow dressed in crooked clothes to drive away the sorrow melting on the roads and Catherine washes now the dishes for the bird to lie in, I don’t see it die, but I eat it anyway – cuz it tastes good.
Paula waits for me at school I know tomorrow for my card, it’s hard to sign it “love” and so I say “sincerely” now to guard and camouflage conditioned weathered on the hill, damn! forgot the flower from the sill – I was gonna bring it to her.
The honking lifts my spirit so, the dead bird call that throws my blood into a chilly stream, I run out to the car with Mama calling from the bar to cover naked hands and feet, she does not bother to repeat for Uncle Bob has got me now, Aunt Lilly asks I carry her bag, somehow I lift it from the trunk, so heavy I think, that it will fall down from my shoulder will no help at all, but cousin Liz is there, she takes it from my hair all tangled in the strap; she pats me on the head and Jimmy gets my bed but I don’t care, the foldout lets me stay up later, so does it cater to my sleepingbag; and magazines all wrapped in brown does Jimmy slip without a sound into my pocket ripped in football tag, I open up the bag to ladies naked boobs and, and, and stuff; and Katie hits him with her cakes, my cousin Jim, with muffins baked of blue and berries black each picked from Katie’s yard and knapsacked, carried off into the stoveroom, topped with frosting and white sugardiamonds, light, like air, as muffins should not bring concern or care as to your weight, or such, the freight you carry with you much of the time; and so Jimmy takes the pictures back, whispering “later I’ll let you see” but Kate and Liz won’t let him be – I love cousin Jimmy.
Tossed tackled tumbling to the ground now white not cold nor wet, and Papa’s mighty arm can get it down the field to me so I can wield my talents touchdowns many out of bounds and over walls and fences stalls gates in my way, I hate the bullies who come round – but they’re not here today.
Lizzie’s living on the couch, her knitting needles knotting knots to pouches purses combing hairs of lamb and quilted into fairs of darker tones, of warming blankets sweaters quilts and altogether one from many colours, they glitter in the sun they glisten there from waters dewed on melted snowbanks hues of reds and greens; she’s taken off her shoes the fire warms her feet and I can hear the hickory crackle in the winter heat – the summer meets are faroff now.
Papa’s on the turkey now with sharpened knife and plow to dig the stuffing furrows roasting gold and brown, the mug a clown who cries the cider round his eyes, burning out the candles fire, Mom light sit back and to her Sire gestures “cut the turkey dear” and loud enough for all to hear so that they stir a bit and motionless jump up from their seats, and settle into rest, until Uncle Bill cries “Hell, let’s eat!” – well Uncle Bill was always one for eating.
Jimmy’s first with Sarah gone upstairs (a thirsty girl my sister always flirting there a twirl or twisting of her hair) to phone young Timmy, a fair young man of whitest skin and blondest hair, it almost makes me puke remember movies with the Duke true grit and hardest harshest walk and brisk whiskey sterling talk Mister; “Sarah!” she cries impatient waiting – Mom doesn’t like to wait.
Paula went home to her family, left me took my card and ran away, and her picture is lying in my hand “what’s that?” I hear as Katie looks her eyes a spear into the page where pouting Paula lies pining I take the photo to the lake of water in the dogbowl don’t want them to know to see this girl who hasn’t got me (not yet) beneath her web of doil and dreb and cousin Katie teasing me about her boobs she cannot see that Paula’s bare she would not think to wear those baggy shirts or pants of silk; “Let me alone, the cat needs milk!” I cry but Sarah’s here and in her eyes a brightness dawning, Uncle Bob is yawning “let me see” – I don’t care if he sees, cuz he’s older.
Buster was not happy with the dogfood he could muster so when Mama took the cornbread from the oven to the table spread with cloth and dressed with silver shining slippery wine glasses china crystal plates with valentines the gates of salt and pepper shaken sticks and malts and waters thick; and potatoes and gravy and yams and cranberry and corn; old Buster without warning flew and caught the table split in two upon its edge, kicked out the house into the hedges on the floor a score of silver shining slippery wine glasses china crystal plates with valentines the gates of salt and pepper shaken sticks and malts and waters thick – and potatoes and gravy and yams and cranberry and corn.
Love laughing lingered lively there and in the cold and wintery air a summer breeze took us away into the den where Lions play with Bears on tvs plastic worlds of skies and seas all glowing down to me, and on my lap a plate though paper sturdy Katie pours wine and Papa’s great voice rises thunders praises to this God who amazes me with all the wonder I can taste and feel on days like these all scrambled up in haste and shambled life; Mom salvaging all that once was good; and to this house the God who saves us from our selves in haze though we may be to outside, lights in our own fire see, and while the turkey meat in all its glory tastes so sweet, forgiving not the plastic tube and all who freezes us not climbing through the doors of our own ocean whence it pours, forgiving but that smiling face that crackling fire that torrid pace of plowing, Buster on his face a sap of salt, a saving grace – all that lives is holy.
The sky is dark my foldout deep and as I lay me down to sleep Orion lifts me with a dreary whisper from the sheep outside – I open the door, and I let Buster in.
So there I sit while Buster licks my feet, too tired to quit his old and rusty tricks and leaps for me alone I think but cousin Liz is downstairs, a drink of water in her hand; she brings me sand from the ocean I smell the lotion on her bedtime face like Sarah’s sometimes – I like it.
She speaks of kings and armies trumpet sings of Robin Hood and Huck with corn cob in his mouth his traveling to the sultry stirring waters circles raft adrift and Jim is sifting from the sideline sands; she speaks of Muffit and her curd the next of sounds could not be heard I drift off where the ceiling lifts and folds but for the skies alone the door thrown down into the snow from its broken hinge – cousin Liz sometimes snores.
Next year I hope on Turkey Night that I will sleep more soundly cozy cuddled in my new sweater Lizzie’s knit for me, a delightful blue and green, and when the mean rains plummet down and furrow out their paths I’ll dream the snow brings Jimmy and hi magazines, Katie and her wedding queens and Buster meddling in the seems that hold whatever it all is together.
© Copyright 1995, by Steve Herman, (The Collected Poems of Timothy Stone).