Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Restless Night, Cold Morning \ Three Nights Before Christmas

Nancy: The sound of calling birds – willets in the spring, geese in the fall – exerts a pull even on my sleeping brain.

Restless Night, Cold Morning

The geese hit the bay in a spray
of sound and water, rippling
the last shaft of rose madder light.
Then all subsides in dusk and murmur.

                       the geese circle the bay and land,
                       calling impatiently while I hurry
                       to gather my feathers, I almost forgot
                       but now I remember, hurry, call and fly

                       but wait, the geese lift up against the moon,
                       dark paper cutouts in the sky
                       even in sleep I hear, my blood answers,
                       but late, too late to fly

Days dawn so cold and clear now, listen,
you can hear the crackle of rim ice
when the wind catches an edge.
Down the bay, nothing murmurs, nothing stirs.

                       only dreaming the calling, the greeting,
                       the whirl and circle, the water, the sound,
                       the cries triumphant, one and another
                       and another and another

At dusk the bay is quiet, and again in the morning,
except for the wind, nothing stirs,
nothing calls to me across the water.  No reason,
and yet, for a moment I linger, listening.

Alan: Skeeter – 3 pounds of high-octane joy – ruled my life for all eight years of his.   I offer the following in his memory and in blushing homage to Clement Moore, Dr. Seuss, and Mad Magazine, which introduced me as a child to the perverse pleasures of parody.

Three Nights Before Christmas

'Twas three nights before Christmas, and up in my bed
I was sleeping the sleep of the not-yet-quite-dead,
Dreaming such dreams as I know are too common,
Of towns made of Swiss cheese and seas made of ramen,
Serial sagas both pointless and plotless,
Behaviors that dawn would reveal to be thoughtless,
Scenes by DiNiro, DeMille, Peter Jackson
(Silent, except for piano and claxon),
Teaming with characters straight out of Dickens
With bit parts galore (there was one for Slim Pickens),
Creatures who ranged from the pure to despicable
With motives transparent… obscure… inexplicable.
Let me tell you each detail (giant pink quinces!).
Oh.  Is that a yawn?  And are those tics winces?
Well, these were my dreams, so I found them engaging,
And slept, though outside a light drizzle was raging;
Slept in the bliss that tomorrow was Saturday
A sleep saints would envy, both former- and Latter-day.
Ah, joy!  No shrilling alarm in the darkness!
No jolt!  No "Where am I?  In Skegness?  In Harkness?"
And so, to sum up, I was napping the nap
Of a middle-aged, twenty-first-century chap.
Fretful and over-worked Monday through Friday,
But Saturday, ah Saturday!  It was my day!

When, what to my protesting ears should intrude
But the voice of the Skeeter.  So early!  So rude!
He whimpered.  He simpered.  He barked.  He insisted.
I covered my head with a pillow!  Resisted!
Downstairs in his crate he was growlin' and squeakin'.
I: clam.  He: the starfish.  I felt myself weaken;
Until, in despair, off the covers I threw
And peered at the clock.  It was five twenty-two!
The sky was pitch black!  It would still be for hours!
But who in the world can resist Skeeter's powers?

And so from the long winter's night I'm ejected.
I stagger downstairs, feeling beaten, dejected.
I light the gas lamps.  I put on the kettle.
I haul on my coat.  What a test of one's mettle!
I give good old Tycho a quick belly-rub.
Good boy!  You've been quiet.  Not so Beelzebub,
Who's watching, quite brisk, as I unlatch the gate;
Jeez, Skeeter, you devil!  Step forth from your crate.
So I leash them, and walk them, and build up the fire;
It dances and flickers: my dreams' funeral pyre.
I give them their biscuits.  Old Tycho's soon snoozing,
While Skeeter considers a toy of his choosing.
"Breakfast?  You're kidding!" he seems to be saying.
"It's time to be frapping!  It's time to be playing!"
So I toss him his ball, and I shake "Mr. Dino."
He fetches and tugs, while I feel like a wino
Who's just coming to from a capital binge
To stare at the visions that cause him to cringe:
A turtle, a ferret, and yet stranger creatures
That squeak when you press their abnormal, plush features,
'Til finally he flops on the cozy hearth rug,
Where he lolls and he sprawls, and he lounges, quite smug.

When at last the frail dawn creeps out, timid and gray,
The scenery's bleak, and it's sleeting.  Oy vey!
The driveway looks gelid, the yard bleached and slick,
And I think about Christmas, and poor old Saint Nick,
How he schleps all those toys.  What a schlump!  The schlemiel,
Why not just UPS them?  What's the big deal?
All that squeezing down chimneys (the soot can't be healthy),
An entrance like that, why it's hardly stealthy!
The cookies, the milk — oh, give me a break!
He must have a bladder the size of Salt Lake.
And out on the lawn, don't those reindeer get tangled?
"Yo! Rudolph!  Back off before Blitzen gets strangled!"
And that laying of finger aside his red nose -
Does he feel a sneeze coming?  It's here!  Thar she blows!
Ah, Nicholas, laddie, are you just a carrier
Spreading the flu?  Hoo boy, what could be merrier?
Then, labors done, whether dead drunk or sober,
You're gone from our thoughts until next mid-October.

But I glance at the pupsters — they're both deep in slumber —
And think, "C. familiaris sure has our number.
We're trained; we supply them treats, comfort and hugs.
I'll bet, way down deep, that they take us for mugs.
To amuse them, it seems, we consider full recompense
For all their bad breath and occasional flatulence."
So, feeling these sentiments slowly imbue me,

“Frapping,” from “frap,” frantic random activity period.

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