You hear the sound of carols from afar.
Bright bulbs and tinsel, cinnamon and cloves.
Beyond a hill of snow you see a star.

Here you can look at stacks of Christmas trees,
buy nuts and raisins, fruit from nearby groves,
cards inscribed in gold: “joy, love and peace.”

And you can eat kielbasa from a spit
as fat drips sizzling in makeshift stoves
and zlotys are exchanged and butts are lit.

Here you can watch fat women slaughter fish
if you stand in the line and bear the shoves,
pretending that you really have a wish.

And for a moment you can close your eyes
and can forget the cold that pierces gloves
and see a diamond necklace in the skies,

or Jesu here among the city doves.

 

Leo Yankevich’s latest books are The Last Silesian (The Mandrake Press, 2005) Tikkun Olam & Other Poems (Second Expanded Edition), (Counter-Currents Publishing, 2012), and Journey Late at Night: Poems & Translations (Counter-Currents Publishing, 2013). He is editor of The New Formalist. More of his work can be found at LeoYankevich.com.

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10 Responses

  1. Joe Tessitore

    Holy cow, Leo! Are you on a roll, or what?
    If you keep knocking them out of the park like this the rest of us will have to hang up our pens!

    Bravo Leo!
    Standing ovation!

    Joe

    Reply
  2. James Sale

    Quite, quite beautiful. and superbly crafted. There are many small details in this, but the one that affects me most is the now obsolete form of ‘Jesu’ – that stops it having all those modern day evangelical connotations of ‘Jesus’, and instead harks back to those C16th poets and a profundity of faith that conquered worlds, interior and exterior.

    Reply
  3. Sally Cook

    Dear Leo —

    Beautiful! What we have lost — our faith and our traditions one by one,. Thanks again, Leo – we owe you so much.

    Reply
  4. Joseph S. Salemi

    Five tercets with a sustained B rhyme — how many poets can still do that these days?

    But even more important are the intimacy, the closely-held warmth in the midst of cold, the small details brought into intense focus, and the totally unexpected but striking “Jesu” at the finish.

    To-notch work, Leo!

    Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      Top-notch indeed. I want me some of that sizzling kielbasa I can almost smell from where I sit.

      Reply
  5. Joseph Charles MacKenzie

    The poem is delightfully atmospheric, evoking the charm of ordinary life at Christmastime in a beautiful old square in Warsaw. The appeal to the senses is masterfully reinforced by their actual enumeration in the repeated phrases “You hear,” “you can look,” “you can eat” (which covers taste and smell). Touch is covered by the “shoving” in verse 14. Even the imagination, to complete the experiential nature of the poem, is given a final position of importance as the opening to the world of larger meaning in the apparition of “Jesu among the doves.”

    Leo Yankevich is one of the original poets of the Ars Poetica Nova, a movement which recognizes the importance of euphony and musicality, the audible aspect of traditional lyric verse. So, I really must insist that the very best way to enjoy “December Wish” is through the poet’s own recording of it in the audio he has been very kind to provide.

    Reply

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