Twas the barest wee knock on the old lady’s front door.
Agatha Agnes made her way, slow, from the divan to answer.
Things this past year for her had left her tired and sore:
Bisquick Cat had been ill, while her Bob finally passed from cancer.
Peering from her peephole Agatha Agnes could just see
The head of her little girl neighbor with her new winter bonnet;
And couldn’t help but wonder what new evil this could be.
Patiently, the little neighbor held a box with a big green bow on it.
Agatha Agnes pulled slowly open her door of oaken ebony
And said to the little girl struggling with the mighty box:
“Leslie Katherine, what on earth have you brought to me!”
The little girl then blushed hot crimson from bonnet to her socks.
“Murry Chwistmus,” tried Leslie Katherine, offering up the bundle.
“Why, thank you,” answered Agatha Agnes, taking the box in hand.
Finally freed, Leslie Katherine bolted the porch skipping off in a trundle.
Agatha Agnes slowly went back inside to see about this present too grand.
Back in the divan, our old lady went to pull off the grand green bow,
Then pulled apart the plain white paper on the box, and opened the flaps:
Lifted out from the packing peanuts a large silver frame made a show—
An old black and white portrait of Agatha Agnes next to her Bob in his riding chaps!
Later Agatha Agnes would learn the story how this last Christmas present came to be:
Bob realized his cancer would soon win and wanted to surprise his bonny bride.
So, retrieving the silver frame with his old college degree inside from U of Mississippi—
He took her favorite picture of them happy and young, in love, and slid that inside.
Bob had met with the neighbors and asked Leslie Katherine for a special boon:
To present the box to Mrs. Jefferson, at her convenience, on Christmas Day.
The Cabbotts readily agreed, even though it was an early hot, summer June.
But they remembered; and after lunch, Leslie Katherine had made her careful way.
Real Love is timeless, despite those events that cause breath-catching with maybe a spilt tear.
Cherish all your loved ones, be passed or present: Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Her bags had been packed for a little while;
She gave up, having given him his chance—
She’d hoped he’d call or maybe something more.
At last the horn sounded off in the distance.
She attended Randolph-Macon, a sweet little school,
In the heart of the little railroad town called Ashland.
Tuition was tight, and she had to work most nights,
But she managed to keep onto some cash in hand.
Going home on Christmas Eve, she bundled up tight.
He said something that he worked at something in travel,
But shared not very much more, though he held her hand.
At the crimson memory, she scuffed her shoes in the gravel.
The bells and lights popped on the England Street gates
While clanged the Regional into the charming station;
Down to Charleston for the last of the school holiday:
The tracks sang shrill along with her wistful anticipation.
As the P40 slowed to a pause on old track number three,
The student grabbed her suitcase to get on aboard.
The door unfolded open, the conductor stepped off;
The yellow stool down; he reached out to guide her forward.
Student-waitress and nice guy-conductor stood stock still—
Alan? Kathy? But the press of passengers soon broke the spell,
And everyone got onboard quickly and surely aboard.
I believe the two had lots to say, one could just kind of tell.
The bell clanged again on the AMTRAK Regional Southbound
As the train slipped slowly down the road-girded track.
Curious folks on an online camera wondered at the pas de duex:
Of two hearts with a whole new story that overnight they’d unpack.
The gates rose back up to home and the bells fell silent;
The holidays lights on the street lamps flickered small-town cheer.
One engine and 8 carriages had been rightly and true counted—
While Ashland, virtual and real, awaited a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
The fallen leaves scattered across the tracks,
Southbound 53 would push these farther on.
A love that was empty as Ashland’s winter trees—
A hard weight was lifted now that she’d gone.
No tears, but also no joy, would be found here.
Yes, may the very best find its way over to her;
And should any good be left over hanging out
Perhaps might could entertain here along with Jack’s purr.
Santy Claus is due to arrive in a few days
And we’ve all tried to be and to do our best;
But sometimes it’s never close to good enough
And you cancel flights along with all the rest.
Maybe in the new year happiness real will come
And everyone can breathe and let it all just be;
Festivals and dances return for our lives renewed
And I can get back to that crescent bend in the Mississippi.
The southbound blew its horn passing thru Ashland town
And the online chatroom railfans counted up all the cars.
The empty trees shimmied in the rolling winter wind;
The resettled leaves looked up and counted up all the stars.
Down the wreck that once was her yard the girl walked over the crumble
Leaving Aleppo is far harsher each and every day
Things pop up, blow up, and wall off the way
Baby Ishmalla is buried over there
Mom eyes vacant sits next to the window
Pages of the koran skitter in the breeze
No imam here just the shattered shattered
Cousins left weeks ago
Don’t know where they’ve gone
Cannot think about tomorrow
Booming nights and days for too long go on and
The candle sputtered
Then guttered out
The wick a speck in the wax
The old poet looked
And suffered to stand up
The last present wrapped was Jack’s
A fresh Christmas candle
Striped Santa red and holly green
With its new flame warmed the room
Placing presents about
A tree to shame Charlie Brown
The shards of wrapping left with the broom
The cat’s tail flicked serene
The poet reached for his quill
As words soft filled a new page
A chance Winter memory
Spurred the poet on
Thoughts neither steep nor very sage
She bought him skis for a gift
Though “cross” country would mean something else
Tears of laughter with every tumble and spill
He wondered where she was now
A score of years have long passed
When meeting on Concourse B was such the piquant thrill
Chinese Five Spices
Floated upon the solemn merlot
The poet paused to let the tightness pass
Tomorrow the two-state drive
Back to his beloved Crescent City
Though this year without his own wee lass
Daughter would be skiing
Off out with her Mother and half family
Cross country over in the mountain West
He’d be with swiftly aging brother
And a Christmas with the family Creole
But things always work out for the best
A meow and a sigh
The poet let Jack out the door
A cat in search of secret nocturnal meetings
The candle blew out neat
The cold front had as promised arrived
As the rain pelted out its Season’s Greetings
Waxing and waning here came Christmas Number Sixty-two
But he yet looked ahead brightly through this Yuletide in Blue
Oh, the horrid errors of Yule
We have all committed:
Mixed up colors to patterns;
Ribbons tied so misfitted.
Gave ‘em the wrong present
Or left on the price tag;
Switched the main big one
With the present that’s a gag!
Quick wrap on Christmas morning—
Oh, what an unsightly cut.
The paper just won’t fold
And I cannot get the box to shut!
Such perils of childhood presenting
On every December 25th;
THEN: Missing one’s front teeth
So every time it’s Saint Nicholith!
Then the unforgiveable crime,
Even if only a kid—
Someone (?) had somehow discovered
Where all the Christmas presents were hid!
So I became a Santa agnostic,
But it was really alright:
And I still get that soul-tug
Whenever we sing “Silent Night.”
And now I have my own child
The best present I ever had!
And should she find where I hid those gifts—
Well, ya know, it just won’t be all that bad!
“Jingle bells, jingle bells…”
The light followed the star over the hill
As the fog rolled in with the cold
Twas a different kind of Christmas story
At least as far as I remember what I was told
A deep abiding affection afflicted the old man
And finally had the means to fulfill a promise
And many, many lonely miles he did trudge to deliver
A last bouquet of daisies to lay before his one fair miss
In younger, luckier days our man had paid fervent troth
To she who now dwelt in yon granite sarcophagus,
But a wrong spoken word had ended it all forever;
Such a piteous loss as to be endured by any one of us.
But our Vanity is a grievously jealous mistress;
And he could not, would not forgive, the slight by his true love.
Such tragedy our old man had scripted in a cold bile ink,
Disparaging of her and placing his wounded veil above.
Carole, the second beauty born of Marble Falls
On one lank Christmas Day between the great wars,
Loved above all Nature’s beauties the blue daisy—
She would fill her Mother’s pots, trestles, and jars.
Silas, our poor fool from a far crescent city east,
Would bring bouquets of blue daisies to ply his troth,
And won her heart, and a date sure was firmly set—
What could possibly set aside such as this Love’s oath?
A sorry, sad mistake came to undo our lover’s story:
Carole observed unartfully our Silas over harsh tone:
As blasted to the quick, Silas cast off his cheery mantle,
And demanded keenly by Carole to be left forever alone!
Oh, Silas! One word passed without art has chilled thee so?
And bereft of her future, our shaken Carole turned to leave.
Only alone, later in his poor ivory tower of hot wind and pride
Would he see his error and allow himself to grieve.
Carole, the second beauty born of Marble Falls,
Would later, at last, marry fairly well, if not too grand.
Silas, alone, tended to his vanity and found old age,
But twas Carole to first find her final rest at Death’s hand.
Silas, hearing of Carole’s passing, fell slow to his knees
And swore a prideless oath to take every Christmas Day,
In honor of Carole, his cast-off joy, a last birthday gift:
A simple arrangement in a pristine blue daisy bouquet.
The light faded over the hill after the star found its new home.
The old man had placed his bouquet when his heart beat its last.
The fog blanketed the granite and the bouquet and the sad.
Is loneliness the grand prize for a wrong word lost to the past?
Not all Christmases are all tinsel and cheer—
Silas and Carole speak to us in more mature themes.
Please, this Yule, find it inside you to forgive and forget
Or woe may scuttle your fonder, finer, future dreams.
The opossum had wanted in.
He wanted to come in real bad.
He scritter-scratched at one vent;
He scrapper-skritched like he was mad.
Of course I understand critters wanting in:
The winter does right nasty by them.
But the problem mostly I had?
He was wanting in at 10:30PM!
Banging on the ceiling did no good,
Nor outside on the underside of the overhang!
So, at last I just had to grab the ladder
And go up on the roof—Just Dang!
Got up on there no problem,
Just barely saw the tail of poor dear.
Hope he finds somewhere [ELSE!]nice to winter,
And I wish him a Happy New Year!
Inspector Opossum Peter Francis O’Henry
Returned late to our Christmas Branch Office.
Looking harrumphed and worse for wear,
Seems something had gone quite amiss.
He was completing his annual inspection
For homes being correctly Christmas ready:
Like: “Stockings Hung With Care” and
“Tree Standing Upright And Steady.”
But, Peter was in a less than beaming mood;
Seems the last house was a tad of a goof:
The owner of the residence demurred him entry,
And even chased poor Peter off the roof!
He’d had to go back later to finish,
Opting to check in through a handy window,
He noted a pretty fir bright with light,
And that all looked correct, and properly so.
Peter wondered if his time had come,
Time to hang up his clipboard and end,
Til Santa came around to him and said:
“Ho, Ho, Ho, but you’re my best worker and friend!”
Everyone is ready for Christmas,
Peter F. O’Henry and me,
But if you hearing noises late at night,
Try not to take affright—
It’s just a FOS [Friend of Santa] checking out your tree!