Joyce Carol Oates
Thursday, November 30, 2006
Season of Waiting
I have a favorite Christmas poem. It was written by Joyce Carol Oates and I have been pulling out the tattered copy that I originally cut from a women's magazine for many years. It went missing for a couple years around the time we moved in 2000 and then miraculously reappeared. I want to share it with you but I think I need the author's permission or perhaps I could just post it as long as I give the author credit and I wouldn't consider doing otherwise. Maybe she'll excuse me, considering that maybe you, the reader would be inclined to buy and read her other stuff. I would recommend you do that, she is an author worth reading, so here goes.....
Season of Waiting
Christmas: The house adrift in a wide white ocean of snow.
Black December is a ditch winking overhead,
but here beneath your parents' roof the piecrust faces
are dimpled by forks
and the clock faces are round and smooth as buttons.
This is the season of waiting and of expectation
and of hunger keenly roused to be satisfied.
This is the season of the miraculous birth,
the oldest story,
the fresh-trimmed spruce bristling to the ceiling,
smelling of cold, of night, of forests wild and tamed
as forests in a child's picture book.
The splendid tree is balanced in a shallow tin of water
looking as if it would live forever---
and such tinsel, such trinkets ablaze
on the boughs, a glass glitter
of icicles, angel's hair,
strings of colored lights plugged to a socket!
And beneath the tree, presents wrapped in shiny paper,
satiny bows, gifts heaped upon gifts---
a child's fever-dream spilled on the carpet.
Outside, snow flying like white horses' manes and tails;
inside, cookies that are stars, hearts, diamonds,
the smell of a turkey roasting slow in it's fat.
There are stories children are not told,
of grandmothers dying in secret of their hearts
or of cancer shopping for months for this season---
the costly boxed gifts that are love, the stiff silver paper
that is love, all the effort of joy, love---
torn open too quickly by a child's impatient fingers.
And there suddenly is your father,
entering the kitchen, the wind behind him,
snow melting in his wild dark hair,
a carton of presents in his arms.
From what and to what could this world be redeemed ?
---is not a child's question.
You are sitting at the long table with the others.
Those years: The roof weighted with snow. Candle flames,
the smell of red wax, O take and eat; the clock tells
its small rounded time again
and again, again---
this is all there is and this is everything.
The miraculous birth is your own.