Saturday, December 24, 2016

Charles Dickens on Christmas

There are many Christmas poems, and I'm always on the lookout for new ones. What I really like, though, are poems that reach out beyond the obvious Christian message to something more universal.

 I would love to hear about your favorite Christmas Poems!

The popular Carol “I Heard the Bells On Christmas Day” comes from a poem “Christmas Bells” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807 – 1882). Written in 1863 during the heart of the Civil War, it reflects world turmoil similar to what we all might feel today. Omitting three dark stanzas about the Civil war, it goes:

 I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
    And wild and sweet
    The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
    Had rolled along
    The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth," I said;
    “For hate is strong,
    And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
    The Wrong shall fail,
    The Right prevail,

With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

This is still a little sappy for me, depending again on the mighty hand of God to make everything right again. My current favorite Christmas "poem" is actually a poetic section from a Charles Dickens essay, What Christmas Is As We Grow Older.

                                  Welcome, everything!
                             Welcome, alike what has been,
                                   and what never was,
                               and what we hope may be,
                         to your shelter underneath the holly,
                       to your places round the Christmas fire,
                           where what is sits open-hearted! 

And here is a link to the complete essay. Enjoy!

What Christmas Is as We Grow Older; Charles Dickens

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Best Christmas Ever (in response to a writing prompt)

Best Christmas Ever 
                        Like asking which of your children you love the most

There was the first Christmas
when I was the prince
unknowing head of the grand-kids brigade

There was Christmas in Maine
warm house         a turkey
a small model train

There was grandparents Christmas
loving old man         silvery woman
polished wood floors        light in the windows

There was growing boys Christmas
with pairs of real skis
endless days in the snow for my brother and I

There were years of dark Christmas
not too many I guess
sitting in quiet and counting the losses

There were Christmases      children
my wife’s loving tree
home-made decorations placed to cement

our hearts to our family
to ancient ancestors 
to dim winter evenings

to bonding of campfires
after a low-passing
sun has gone down

now Christmas is lights
strung up on the houses
ornaments carefully tended and hung

and after all of the parties have passed
along with the crowded living room mornings
Christmas comes as it will            year after year

and rests on our shoulders     a dusting of snow

© Frank Kearns 2016 

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Overheard ...

Gathering snippets of conversation or thought “overheard” …
This week’s subject … “Thanksgiving (The Holiday)”

Here is my collection from one day … Contribute your "overheard," especially alternative views of this interesting holiday.

Thanksgiving Sampler 2016
             Voices from Thanksgiving week

- Is your wife cooking for Thanksgiving?
- I bought an eleven-pound turkey.
- Sometimes we have barbeque—one time pulled pork.
- Are you going anywhere?
- He always buys his Thanksgiving meal at Boston Market.
- We would eat twice—once at her parents, once at mine
- Look on your phone for how to thaw out a turkey
- Tamales—Thanksgiving AND Christmas
- Any plans for Black Friday?
- How not to fight at family gatherings
- She’ll be flying down from Portland this morning
- Macy’s is opening at five PM today
- It was the first day we knew for sure that he was gone
- I’m going over to Emmy’s house this afternoon
- We are eating early—her fiancĂ© has to work in the afternoon
- I was so frazzled about the apple pie
- He’s driving up from Boston—should be here by one
- I messed up the first batch of deviled eggs—I had to start all over
- My attempt at gluten-free banana bread came out like bricks
- The turkey got done too early
- Want a beer? Some wine?
- This cranberry sauce is really good
- She and a friend are going to Cocos for lunch
- Pass the mashed potatoes please
- After we eat, we’ll walk around the lake
- My mother would make gravy out of the drippings
- Want to take some of the mashed potatoes home?

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Water Play 1949

My mother sits in grass and sun
an enamel pan beside her
she holds a metal pitcher
tilted    water spilling out
as I balance on my chubby legs

I am bent over just enough to see
how sun glints off aluminum
to feel cold water splash on ankles
dribble down to feet and toes
I try to reach and guide her hand

Her left arm holds the metal pitcher
muscles clear and well defined
veins just visible down to where
her wrist turns in around the handle
my little fingers grasp her there

I hold her     but am focused on
the way the battered pitcher turns
to spill      the first time in my life
to see clear water roll around a pan

everything I know of water
the pooling on the shower tile
the flowing round the rocks in Eastern coves
started then     the water
reflecting back on mother’s face

everything I know of water
passed in this moment to this stubby boy
intent on turning the pitcher down
lower     just a little lower
to see what happens next

©2016 Frank Kearns

Monday, February 15, 2016

On Visiting the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park

On Visiting the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park
Paul Laurence Dunbar 1872 - 1906

The citizens of Dayton Ohio
in conjunction with the national parks
have established a place to nurture the memory
of the Wright Brothers and Paul Dunbar

“We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—“

The only black in his high school year
Paul was elected class president
was the teen-age editor of the Dayton Tattler
friend Orville Wright his publisher

 “With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.”

Crowds flock to the Wilber and Orville stuff
but here at the park interpretive center
the ranger    (a woman of color herself)
seems surprised when asked for the Dunbar film

“I know why the caged bird beats his wing
    Till its blood is red on the cruel bars;   “

And how the words poured out of him
from this young son of southern slaves
into a country not yet ready
for him and his brothers and sisters

 “ And a pain still throbs in the old, old scars   
And they pulse again with a keener sting—“

the world was ready for man to fly
Dayton is left with an air force base
and a hundred years later
                        we are cleaved by the fate
of Paul Dunbar’s brothers and sisters

Frank Kearns
with selections from We Wear the Mask and Sympathy