Saturday, December 19, 2015
Cut logs from Great Oaks. Dress them with pine, cedar, berries,
then douse well with ale. Toss the wood
with best flour ground down on the hand-stones.
Set ablaze the new Yule log with fire from the old one,
tended by women and kept burning the year.
Eat hearty of fresh beef, oat bread, and stirabout.
Every man, every woman, drink your fill of mulled wine.
Young ones link arms, dance and dance more.
Sing and drum in bold spirit on the night of the Solstice,
for we’ll not sing again ‘till the frozen ground gives—
the hungry time comes and some of us will die.
We gather this night under boughs of the Evergreen:
whose stout color lives on through the storms and long cold
through the fearsome dark winter of storms and long cold.
The skirt of her coat swirls
as she twirls on new white skates.
“I’m Princess of the Pond,” she whispers.
Then, a game! Ringolario!
A big boy with red hair grabs her hand.
He’s not from the neighborhood.
“Hide with me!”
Fast to the place where sticks
of grass poke through the ice.
He pulls her down.
“This will feel good,” he says
and he rubs under her coat.
“No,” she thinks, but she freezes.
Anger rushes and whirls until it frees
her to grapple him. She speeds away
to the log where they keep their shoes.
Her heart pounds, but she doesn’t cry.
That night Elvis Presley is on Ed Sullivan.
Knees drawn tight to her chest,
she’s safe in her pink quilted robe,
and her secret is thick in her throat.
The next weekend it snows!
Everyone rushes to Piersall’s hill.
The red-haired boy shows up again.
He taunts a small child— takes his sleigh.
Her fury grows bigger than fear and she pushes his chest,
punches his stomach and screams,
“Go away! You’re a bad boy! Go away!”
When her brother finds her, the bully is gone.
Worn through, she sobs into his snowy wool coat.
Snowy Night in Northern New Jersey
The blizzard’s a lalapalooza, but we’re going anyway— all six of us in the Karmann Ghia. Dad says it will hold the roads better than the Impala and Mom’s not arguing. Ricky even goes along with sitting on Mom’s lap without a fight even though he’s seven. In the back seat, my brother Bobby’s long legs are smooshed up by his chin and I sit between my brothers, half on Peter’s lap. Everyone is dressed up for Christmas Eve dinner at one of those country inn places that are around now. This isn’t like us, you know? We’ve gone to restaurants, of course we have— Chinese place in Wycoff, pizza place in Suffern, like that. Peter told me this Old Country Hearth or whatever it’s called is expensive. I’m wearing my ugly snow boots with my black velvet dress, but I have my heels (still one inch) in a bag on my lap. Dad’s in a great mood. So’s Mom and she looks beautiful, smoothed, young. No one’s been whining or arguing or pestering. We feel like a different family to me tonight. Going for it in a blizzard, going somewhere fancy together. I don’t care about what I get tomorrow— just let’s make it through the rest of the night being nice to each other like this: Dad cracking jokes, Mom laughing, us four kids getting along, the Ghia warming up, the snow falling like crazy.