X

The play of the breeze brings the music of childhood,
The tinkle of laughter as light and as clear
As were our voices when singing in Wildwood
The day before Christmas—the best time of year.

The songs that we sang told of sleigh bells a-jingling,
Snow-laden branches, and manger with child;
A reindeer named Rudolph, with red nose a-tingling
From temperatures colder than our climate mild.

Although we were strangers to reindeer and mangers,
And sunscreen on noses was all that we knew
Of summertime whiteness, apart from the brightness
Of clouds in a sea of cerulean blue,
We sang with conviction, in vowel-perfect diction,
Extolling His birth, which we knew to be true.

Each chorister, following annual tradition,
Wore swimmers beneath formal trousers and robes.
But though the townsfolk knew our layered condition,
The height of our folly resisted all probes.

For when the last notes faded into the distance,
We packed up our songbooks, with danger in mind;
To head to the river, whose lilting insistence
Had drawn us to waters—the treacherous kind.

Before you could say Silent Night, or King Wenceslas,
We divested the vestments of choral attire:
On bordering fences, positions defenceless
From flurries of dust, and the rust stain of wire.

From cliffs high enough to see mountaintops showing,
We leapt to the ribbon of silver below,
Until our resistance to hunger pangs growing
Drifted away like a leaf in the flow.

Boastful, bedraggled, still dripping, we straggled
Back home after donning our gear for the way;
Dismissive of bruising, self-confidence oozing—
Outdoing each other in swagger and sway.

And these are the scenes that my memory’s bringing
Whenever December the twenty-fourth nears:
The pleasure of touching the skies with our singing,
Delighting in danger, and brushing off fears.

X

X

David Watt is a writer from Canberra, the “Bush Capital” of Australia. He has contributed regularly to Collections of Poetry and Prose by Robin Barratt. When not working for IP (Intellectual Property) Australia, he finds time to appreciate the intrinsic beauty of traditional rhyming poetry.


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17 Responses

  1. Peter Hartley

    A good antidote to my misery at this time of year and good use of female rhyme. I always like the way tetrameter gallops along and this is a good example of it.

    Reply
    • Peter Hartley

      David – I also like Evan’s choice of illustration. It was used in the Penguin English Library series for the cover of Silas Marner over fifty years ago.

      Reply
      • David Watt

        Thanks Peter – I’m glad my poem provided you with some cheer in these unsettling times. I chose to use anapestic tetrameter for a jaunty effect. It’s gratifying to hear that the choice proved effective.

        The illustration chosen by Evan was an excellent choice. Thanks for the interesting background confirming its use as a cover to Silas Marner many years ago.

        Wishing you all the best for Christmas and the New Year.

  2. Jeff Eardley

    David, this is most enjoyable. Just reading whilst watching “Carols from Kings” as an icy wind blows outside. No dipping in the ribbon of silver for me tonight.

    Reply
    • David Watt

      Thanks very much Jeff. Our summer weather here must be in stark contrast to your current winter. Taking advantage of the milder summer this year, we have alternated between outdoor and indoor eating this Christmas day.

      Wishing you a merry Christmas Jeff, and a happy New Year.

      Reply
      • Jeff Eardley

        David, best Yuletide wishes to you and yours and fingers crossed for a much better 2021.

  3. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    David, this is not only well composed and beautiful, it gives an insight into Christmas in a different climate and I can fully relate to that. Having moved from England to Texas, having Christmas dinner in the backyard in summer clothes and paddling bare-foot in at our local bay, is so strange to me. The joy and wonder of your poem is contagious (oops, that word is probably no longer PC). A very Merry Christmas to you!

    Reply
    • Margaret Coats

      Yes, Christmas takes festival forms in varied climates! In Florida, it was Midnight Mass in evening dress. We might go to the beach during the Twelve Days, but didn’t swim because the air was warm, but the water cold.

      Reply
      • David Watt

        Margaret, you’re quite right. Christmas celebrations take many forms, depending on climate and culture. With current interstate travel restrictions, most people are staying at home this Christmas. The water’s warm, but unfortunately, the beach will have to wait.

    • David Watt

      Susan, I appreciate positive feedback from you, as you maintain a consistently high standard across various forms.

      The idea for this poem came from the fact that our daughter is a chorister in the Australian Girls Choir, and that for school swimming days she regularly wore swimmers under her school uniform to be pool ready. Other than that, the narrative is entirely fictional.

      Wishing you and Mike good health and high spirits for Christmas.

      Reply
  4. Margaret Coats

    David, thanks for this good story of voices and singers. Lines 13 and 14 resound with any chorister. Strange year this, when we may get in trouble just for the singing, but not for any “dangerous” celebrations otherwise–unless of course we congregate too closely.

    Reply
  5. Anna J Arredondo

    David,
    I found your poem most enjoyable, interesting to the mind and pleasing to the ear — and I particularly love the third stanza. You also have some clever rhymes, like Wenceslas/defenceless…

    Reply
    • David Watt

      Thank you Anna. Sunscreen on noses came to mind as a symbol of summer, and is a definite contrast to scenes of northern hemisphere Christmas snow.
      I also wanted to emphasize that the belief in His birth remains true the world over.

      Reply

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