Joyce Carol Oates
Thursday, November 30, 2006
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.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
I found four old wooden clothespins in a pile of junk at an auction a while ago. One red. One green. One blue. And one unpainted. The wood was smooth from years of use. For some reason they gave me a good feeling, so I stuck them in my pocket. When I got home I sat them on the windowledge in the kitchen where I have been looking at them for the past six months. I think I have them figured out. They remind me of the alley at Winthrop Drive where my mom and loads of other mom's hung their wet laundry while we kids rode our bicycles in the obstacle course created by crooked clothes poles and clean sheets. On quiet days when everyone had gone off to school and I was left to play alone, I'd gather up the clothespins, sort them by color and pretend that they were armies at war and sometimes families at war and other times good girls and bad girls. The bad girls were always red. When my mother needed more clothespins, I'd pretend one died, or went to school, which was a lot like dying as far as I could tell. When I went to kindergarden someone made an apron for me with pockets across the front. In each pocket was a clothespin dressed in scrap fabric that looked like a dress. I brought the apron to school to wear at craft time to protect my clothes. Between the start of school and the Chrsitmas holiday, the apron got pushed back deep in my cubby where I forgot about it. Just before the holiday break we made plasters of our hands to give to our mother for Christmas. I was looking for something when I found the apron abandoned at the back of the cubby. I pulled it out and tried to smooth out the wrinkles and wrap it around my neck, when one of the clothespin dolls fell out. I was filled with an intense rush of homesickness. I longed for those days in the alleyway watching my mother hang and fold clothes. I got in trouble that morning at school, holding the red clothespin doll in my hand
Saturday, November 18, 2006
I make promises that I cannot keep. You wouldn't suspect. I am so reliable to my family and friends. But I do it nonetheless. I promise that I will quit smoking when I know it is a promise that I am not willing to keep. Maybe I should just promise to think about quitting. I do that all the time anyway. I promise to listen better but I am incapable and often have to ask my kids to repeat the story. This is not fair. A story is not half as good the second time around. They tell me many stories. Maybe I should ask them to tell me only one story a day. Maybe then I could listen better. I wonder what story they would choose. I promise Danielle that I will write a book. Danielle still asks every few months about "my book". I tell her it is fine. I write a little here and there. Sometimes I am impatient and ask " how I am supposed to write a book when no one has clean underwear and my commute to work takes several hours." Where is there room to write? They just nod their heads. Tell me they will wait. They look forward to reading "my book". I looked forward to writing it for a long time but then it seems like such an egotistical thing. Self centered and self absorbed. As though my story is any better than your story. The poor listener asking others to pay attention.