Tidings A Collection of Holiday Poetry
This is a special Domesticated Primate & Anomaly Poetry Winter Solstice 2020 publication. All works Copyright © 2020 by the individual artists.
This collection Copyright © 2020 by Domesticated Primate Cover Art by: Sarah Jane Mulvey
READ MORE, YOU TROGLODYTE! This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imaginations or are used factiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. So, chill out fool. Contact the publisher: firstname.lastname@example.org
Foreword by Sarah Jane Mulvey
Sorry gang, you’ll get no goofy rambling about holiday memories from me this year. These past twelve months have kicked me and nearly everyone else I love in the teeth and I won’t try to wax poetic on that Good news is—we all had the same ideas and this collection is a poignant, challenging mess of an anthology of what can very loosely be called ‘holiday poetry’. Anyway, to wrap this up with a nice bow and let you get to the poems: Take care of yourselves and each other.
Fuck 2020. Slàinte Mhaith —cheers to your health.
Salvation Army Poem by Dennis Rivard All I really need for now, would be some new pens. Maybe one of those glue, paper-board and clear plastic package deals. And any money left over would probably wind up in that red bucket there. Red, like a heart. It’s Christmas, after all.
A Time Of Joy by Pat St. Pierre Memories won’t escape you ; they continue to haunt your soul. The breezes from uncaulked window panes cause silver tinsel to sway from tree branches.
When you light the candles of the angel chimes which sit on the mantle, bells twirling around the candle flames are like whispering voices. The Christmas tree lights are sparkling, tinsel is blowing, and bells are chiming. You sit watching Christmas lights dance recalling younger days when festivities were made by children. Children are laughing happy that presents will soon arrive. You sit mesmerized remembering when Christmas was a time of joy.
“Festive Christmas Trees” by Pat St. Pierre
Unwrapping Christmas Mornings by Anne Vincent Becker Regard when you are old enough to believe to pretend to thank react, react rightly to know when it is your turn to wait, to pass a turn like a parent (I’m told) to expect less, guys, let’s go easy on the presents this year to know how to wrap passingly, expertly, impressively, or sometimes re-wrap no-matter the underneath, let’s re-wrap, just, for show girls, look how pretty they are under the tree, under twinkle lights at night to appreciate the view to remember your favorite present to not remember your favorite present buried under wrapped years to feel juvenile greed when you got jipped that year to brim with generosity, to imagine fulfilling another’s imagination to receive the perfect gift over receive, to favor give to hit upon the perfect gift you’ll hand someone you are not old enough to know is not perfect old enough to ask whose hand-knitted stockings was
Anne Vincent Becker nibbled by mice and which was smothered in hot candle wax, to ask why on earth, we sang “DAD’s Old Fashioned ROOT BEER!” in a conga line, oldest to youngest. down the spiral stairs Christmas morning, why we don’t sleep in a row by the stone fireplace in new flannel jammies anymore, books, game pieces and c.d.s strewn to get how truly hilarious it is to discover Santa replaced milk with rum next to the scribbled reply note and half-eaten cookie Needed something a little stronger, kiddos, and where’d you get that damn barking spotted reindeer? To ask your parents how they ‘elved’ so quietly, so wondrously, staying up all night wrapping to contemplate the silent night To meditate on the story of a perfect birth amid imperfection, a story of parents turned away, no lodging, of straw, dust, confusion, solitude, darkness, of waiting in the darkness for light Told of miracle, are you old enough to wonder, to ask if it is enough (to receive, to believe, to give, to pass along just the story or underneath?) or never enough to see it in time
Pinehenge by Paul Cordeiro Mary waves. A dirt road neighbor nods back in his pickup.
he’s a pagan creative who chainsaws each pine trunk felled by lightning storms into longer logs. He stacks fireplace wood into art. Upright,
like a stone monolith, each stake stands the height of a man. We bump along over potholes and salute his Pinehenge wall for woodpeckers.
Merry Christmas, Kevin by Sarah Jane Mulvey Christmas Eve; The calm and quiet. A night of champagne and carols Apple pie moonshine and homemade fudge. So many friends, so much family. Now home alone in your glittering jewelry box apartment. Kick off the heels, straight into PJs. Frank spins soft and low on the record player. Fix an eggnog, wrap the last few presents. Your heart might still be broken, but it isn’t gone. It all just feels fresh in this warm afterglow. But your turtledove is there, nestled in the branches of your own perfect, tiny tree. Tuck yourself into an empty bed and wake up to the sound of church bells Tolling out “The First Noel”.
An Annual Plea From An Ornament to An Artificial Tree by Katherine Gregory Hi. It’s me again. Listen, we need to talk. I didn’t want to have to do this, not again, especially not now, but remember what Christmas used to be like?
I know I’m not a shining star in your life, but please try to remember, for me. Christmas used to be so wonderful. The glorious and familiar sounds of the music, the intoxicating smells filling the entire room, all of our old friends and family surrounding us. And the lights! There’s something so magical about a home lit only with Christmas lights. Sure, maybe it wasn’t flawless, but it was everything we needed it to be, even if sometimes it needed a little extra TLC, even if sometimes, it felt like things were falling apart. And then one year, you changed, and so did everything else. I’ll admit it, from the outside, life looked perfect, but you know as well as I do, it was all fake. It might have been easier, but gone was the feel of a real Christmas. Gone was everything we had held so dear to us.
I’m still longing for those feelings I thought I’d always have, but you can so easily bring them back. Please bring them back. I’ll never take them for granted again, I promise.
Winter Wreath by Kathleen Denizard Day seems night along her way At low tide with boots and pail A salty mist rising, gray among the banks Light steps fall, test and sink, not to crush what may be redeemed Between fragments of smoothed glass, brown and green Between milk white moonstones and speckled pebbles, Quahog and scallop shells sucked into the soggy mud flat Mindless of the chill rolling through the air She gathers a cache for a winter wreath A new creation from an ancient sea to decorate her door.
There Are No Time Machines by Andrew Tedesco Gary Vee told me, As he has told many that, “There are no time machines,” We can’t go Back to the Future, I can’t go back to bringing you to your appointment I can’t go back to a Christmas where we are surrounded by extended family All of the Aunties, uncles and Cousins the Finest Filipino-American feast Lumpia, Pansit, A ham with all of the fixin’s Halo Halo & your apple pie For which I do not have a recipe for which is surprising. For your tattered copy of “Good Housekeeping’s Illustrated Cookbook” is chock full of handwritten cookie recipes Tons of pulled magazine recipes Which are all surprising for a diabetic, But it wasn’t always that way, making banana bread
standing on a kitchen chair so I could reach the counter. Countless seasons of crafting cookies I wish I had more photos To truly recall seasons past Cooking is the closest to any portal to transport me back to you It’s still the greatest gift you’ve ever given me That I get to share With those that I love Merry Christmas to you & yours May we drink and be merry For Festivus is the best of us.
Magnificent Tilt by Vicky Wood No one knows when Jesus was born They fooled me with their myth But perhaps it does not matter whether He was born on December 25th It feels too odd to celebrate The birth of Jesus Christ divine How is this day special to me Outside a plan of Christian design?
Lately I have reconsidered What this day means to me Because what I think is most divine Is how your eyes match the sea Many people used to celebrate An occasion much more grand Than the supposed birth of the son of God Until their celebrations were banned The Winter Solstice, that magnificent tilt Brings the longest period of rest And it is subsequently followed by Later sunsets in the west
Which means we sleep deeply now And there’s more daylight hours ahead I can’t think of a more fitting occasion For us to break some bread So instead of the birth of Jesus I would like to emphasize This celebration of increasing light To illuminate your eyes Merry Winter Solstice, my love From the depths of my soul Some well-earned rest and your sunlight beauty Is what makes my heart feel whole
Christmas Without You by Jessika Lazala I’m harsh, I’m selfish I’m a little impatient. Quick to love And even quicker to feel hatred. Burn a bridge quick Like I don’t feel shit You knew this was in my nature. So why do you think After you wronged me That I was to be fine? Like time would pass, my feelings won’t last after all this time. You’re supposed to know me And show me good things But all that you did was lie. I wish you knew The damage you do, You’d see it if you ever tried. I hide my emotions in gift wrapped boxes to the little child in me. I unwrap them, Clothe myself in anger and break a mug or three.
Jessika Lazala Watch my favorite holiday movies Alone next to my tree. I think of you, and when you left… that hole it burned in me. You don’t know me now, And that’s okay I’m the woman That I’m supposed to be. Without you My skies are still blue, My nights are purple grey. I still love the snow and say hi to the moon at the end of every day. Without you I’m in full bloom Like a Constanza bouquet. But you’ll never see, you choose to spend every Christmas far away.
Soup Story by Cynthia Brenner As a chicken and fall root stew Simmers against the cold outside I consider wafting strains of identity My mother told me her Lithuanian Grandmother owned a tavern In fabled Vilnius Packed up the children, Left drunken husband and Sailed with her coal mining brothers to the rich, fluted rills of Pennsylvania Where whole towns Nestled their visions much wider Than they were long. I distinctly heard my mother say She edited a newspaper there. She set up a kind of soup kitchen, Probably stone soup at first, Where she would feed miners And give a tin cup of hot soup To anyone who needed it.
I see her, my heart kin, in high boots Long skirts and flowered shawls Deftly stirring through the seasons The steaming round iron pot Hung steady between tripod And coal fire at the crossroads Such a clever woman— she captured all the best stories With her ladle and a smile.
Swords Into Time Shares by KR Seward swore I’d never do this again you see the bugs I see the colors next summer’s end the bugs may win that autumn corn looked so nice on the door Indian corn one might recall three hard ears of red milk blue and yellow grain husks crossing like blades in Oath of the Horatii just upward bound by hanging wire having seen plenty of the ordinary in fields on the ground and stalks harvested off bare cobs
or cut for silage greens and grains soft piled and crushed fermenting steaming later in big troughs in cold grassless fields for cows to eat hard dry autumn for the door has an unfair hold on a recovering hoarder sorry it may not really last one day at a time one season or life or year
Christmas In Quarantine vy Kayla Conner Groundhog Day wasn’t a Christmas movie but I’m starting to think they’re filming the sequel. We will dress in our finest pajamas as we float to the living room couch. Log into a computer program to drink Champagne virtually with familiar faces. Try to pretend everything is normal knowing we are living History. I don’t know when this will end. In times of uncertainty you have to work with what you know. And I know kids. Young children prefer the messy but simple things in life. And they are naturally wise. They experience Christmas not as a Hallmark Sunday Special But a time for glitter, cinnamon, and sparkle. A fitting reaction to Winter’s bitter cold.
Instead of fluffy flakes we might get freezing sleet. Where we expected travel we will get more of the same small apartment. What I do know, deeply, is that none of the normal “Stuff ” of the holiday matters. What does matter is that this Christmas is ours. We are here together now and we’ll make the best of things As we always have. We will make magic. Spin silk into gold. Turn another lonely dark night of winter’s death into a celebration of hope.
Light all the candles. Laugh in the Devil’s face. Add extra sprinkles to the cookies, chocolate chips to the banana bread. Do not let your fear of change Extinguish the simple joy of being alive to life’s limitless expansion. Just be. Experience childlike wonder.
Lily by Phillip J. Mellen She takes a walk in the snow slowing her pace for a moment to gain her thoughts but they are in the ether in the dark like a star.
“Winter Scene” by Pat St. Pierre
Radljost* by Mary Beth Yarmac It is worth considering That what we all need Is enough light To find our way. That is, enough light To know how To take the next step. The step that brings us closer,
Closer to a place, A place where Our souls can Find a stillness. A stillness deep enough That the quiet stills Our fear and gives light Enough to find our way. * Icelandic word meaning “enough light to find your way”
Mission by Anne Vincent Becker I cupped a holly branch and squeezed and we were blood brothers Opened to a handshakeful of prickers and juice That’s one story— comingling in the wild, we two plasmas, rind skin, animal and cell wall, sanguine fluids forged against still frost and in testimony of our living Another story is, in the act of picking holly branches, I sought to discover dual pleasure the intense feeling of sharp pricks emotional yield in the darker thrill of transgressing a membrane seeing the consequent ooze upon burst
somewhere unseen, pleasure in violating evolution flouting thorns’ raison d'être to warn/ward off predators or, conversely, mindless pleasure in playing out evolution, single-mindedly pecking at a biological need me, the fitter, dominating prey...but it wasn’t my natural prey
Anne Vincent Becker
another story: I enact the slowest faculty of my beast’s nature, boredom. To be human is to be able to think, to suppress or swat away thought, to overthink, to exhibit thoughtlessness and apathy embody thoughtfulness and compassion (but in its roots compassion means co-suffering...so aren’t I back to the first) forgetting the original story, if not like a cross-legged kid picking grass and burning ants, a teenager throwing logs into a bonfire, trampling meadow for a campground, perhaps I am just a girl whose mother, before the family gathers, has requested holly to decorate the table to bring joy
Egrets by Kathleen Denizard They were lured into the marsh Plume dropping white as snow falling Meant for the breeding season Frost on the reeds, a sparkle of sun And rivulets of sand washing out In the shadows of afternoon
And a whole flock starts fluttering Its splendid, swaggering display Courting as did their ancestors The seaside is raucous where they are A celebration played out; an anniversary observed And I am uninvited, stranded in silence So, I leave them to it. Slogging my way across the flats A furtive glance reward enough Above the marsh, light blinked from the sun dimming Nature having replayed its story, egrets rise to the pale sky The lure that took them here is taking them back.
I Miss The Fullness Most by Stephanie LeBlanc I miss the fullness most. You were effervescent, like the first sip of seltzer. I feel the absence these months later, the sting of a thing that never was. I screamed when you left me, a primal cry from before the dawn of tine. It’s reserved for times when there are no words, like when they lowered mom into the ground in 2014. I tried to keep you inside, hoping the magic we shared could make it possible.
I told you how special you were when we went swimming that day in Dartmouth, and about my family. It wasn’t sunny that day, but the water was warm and we ate fish and chips after. It’s winter now. Someone complimented the Christmas lights on the house today. Multicolored bulbs on evergreen tree shrubs, a blinking wreath on the house. I put them up for you.
Semiotic Slicing by KR Seward to hack off limbs offer no living thing to replace them green’ll have to bud back fast so glad December’s here don’t have to blink an eye toward writing some novel yeah someone’s craving something to read tell me a story so whaddya wanna hear don’t even tell knock-knocks that well so maybe let’s talk
here late days I cut bamboo with pruning shears close to the root mess’ my right knee trying to lean my weight into the slice wrong kind of stress and now it won’t feel right tall green leafy reaches fall over have to fight the slightest breeze to steer these sheared off lengths angle cut stems seem to say jab– you’re dead or stuck through at least waiting for slaughter and or interrogation but I want the bamboo down over here
KR Seward not standing over there sounds easy but like the OCD guy to whom even the simplest vine must twine all passers by in twisted up demise in my mind all passers die run through with diagonal cuts however carefully laid out of the way in a back wood pile now was that the story the joke you were hoping for
orange you glad I didn’t say banana with duct taped extension lashed two handle graft left me by my father in law of yore reaching hard from the ladder’s upper step I scrub off shingle moss some tight and dull and some new and green and loosely splayed any that’ll let go and roll down fast enough like’ to bounce into my face someone’s notion making music for a random stranger or a random friend
hey can this be that music can the breath you take or mine can that air be the music nothing special for the mic’ breath and breath only
hey just breathe and hear whatever flies or doesn’t let that be the music
love sound and noise and even music’s okay ‘guess but if you really want music let someone breath
if you really like noise let some ease your way or not and hear it or don’t while you breath
“The Nest” by Sarah Jane Mulvey
Love Vanishes by Mary Beth Yarmac What happens to love that Vanishes? Does it still exist, Somewhere? If you sit quietly alone, can it be felt, Anew? Is it fixed there within you, Somehow? Or does that love blow away like Autumn Leaves? On a day that’s gray and sunless or loveless Perhaps? But then, breathe deep, look up, feel the Shadow.
Overdue by Paul Cordeiro A warm glow that should be your flesh pressed on mine, left long ago
like the light from a supernova. I’ve begun to like the space where your body used to be.
The Longest Night by Sarah Jane Mulvey Sunrise at 7:07AM. Woke up early to buy gifts, then off to work to sell gifts. Sunset at 4:16PM. 28 degress, A smell of snow in the air. And still so long to go until I crawl in to bed beside you. The long, dark night. Twinkling lights and shiny-bright baubles. How badly I want to slow it all down. Hold you in the quiet, gentle dark. As candles glow and the wheel of the year turns once again toward the light.
Snow Angel by Nick LeBlanc Diving into a snow pile Your body spins and twists crunchy and cold snowflakes A phone call or ticker tape Grandma usually tells me first anyway will anyone want to play? Flat on my back Black ice steals my boots I push a car The blizzard’s wind whistles a story: At the center of town is a tree farm Small shops open on Main Street Everyone walks to and from school The neighbors gather at the park for a bonfire Every family has an open house Lights twinkle everywhere Carolers sing beautifully Parents drink mulled win We sled under the clear night My sweater is comfortable All that is past is tradition And all that is to come is possibility The moment is eternal
Nick LeBlanc Then the streetlights come on A speck of dust frozen into a snowflake Tumbling toward Earth The message is the dent in the snow Left by your departure
“Christmas on 7th Street” by Sarah Jane Mulvey
Snapshot by Andrew Tedesco, after Sarah Kay’s “Extended Development”* Sarah Kay, Spoke on her father, picking up his camera a year after the towers fell, “His first time out, he followed the Christmas lights dotting their way through New York City’s trees— little flashes winking at him from the darkest-darks” I always refer to her when embracing “the art of capture” & with each breath Each passing year working on the letting go attempts of shedding anchors It’s been 7 Thanksgivings Almost 7 Christmases The first ones almost seem surreal A turkey with no father to be found A Christmas Spent on an air mattress In an uncle’s living room Hours from everyone Beyond sweater weather As we were plucking logs from a frozen pallet At a sad attempt to create heat For like our luck the oil had run out
Andrew Tedesco More than burning midnight the only thing left to warm my heart was the love of a 70 pound lap dog No matter where she was she was the happiest and loved the snow And it snowed so much that year Everything is so cemented to each other Your passing Your birthday Thanksgiving Christmas New Years It makes being happy, being thankful, being grateful, So Fucking HARD. I know you would want me to be happy, you were approaching why heart was attached to Roxy’s dumb face You never understood why I created what I did & I wanted to show you what I created for you For you were my first experience of hustle, of going after something you wanted An Asian-American business owner Put yourself through school While making sure I put myself through school Truly the shining example.
I’ve written so much about you over the years And nothing seems to come close to capture your work ethic your grace How your beast of burden of feeding masses has been something I have amassed and inherited And I have done so gladly Because nothing brings me more joy than entertaining those I care about And that is what I learned from you. That all you ever did was care. * Sarah Kay’s “Extended Development” as published in her collection, No Matter The Wreckage.
Tiny Tim by Kayla Conner I have a soft spot for Tiny Tim. I was that poor thing pushing through a failing body. Pushing everything down. Until I cracked like an egg. They fused my hip with a cobra head plate and a dozen screws, Slapped me on the back and spat, “Isn’t our work incredible? Look at what we’ve done!” And threw me to the wolves of Middle School. I was thankful to walk. Wasn’t that good enough? I was Twelve. Staying up too late, Wet freezing rain sloshing around my weather inappropriate shoes. Popsicle toes. Three decades on Earth without the wherewithal to wear shoes with actual soles Who woulda thunk cloth soled moccasins were not where it’s at for snow-filled woods. Dad’s karaoke is the only constant we’ve had in our Christmas traditions since my grandmother passed away 11 years ago We couldn’t even decide on a permanent location. Left unspoken. Tangled Christmas lights searching for the broken bulb in a rats nest of wires. Some well-placed sailor’s words Muttered under tongue sloshing tequila. Plastic molded candles framing frozen black stairs. At least there’s no cancer this year.
I focused on the other. On shutting down the pain as some mild irritation in the back of my mind. If I don’t look at it it doesn’t exist. A boogeyman. Push through. Get it done. Next Project. You are not enough. But I am. I was 29 when I broke again. This time I turned inward. To the root. To that darkness I’d been tugging around my spine. 3 wise men to fond one that would fix me. One Saint of a man. More of an alchemist. He cut through my bones with a bone saw. Carved out an acetabulum, fit it with plastic. Took the ceramic and titanium stem and hammered it into my femur. Who knew the life I lived was so restricted? Who knows where my new life will lead? Did you know I can touch my toes?
I am here, now. Taking care of myself. I used to feel responsible to gift each and every person in my circle with Christmas presents until the list regularly hit 30. Desperate. Solely so they would like me. Why the hell wouldn’t they like me? Because I was some broken thing. Tiny Tim. They even had me play a cripple in a play. But what do you say to nameless pain? They had their own to deal with. It has taken 12 months for my spine to straighten.
Beautiful things take a lot of tending to grow. I’m grateful for the lesson. Slow down. I couldn’t lift my own foot day one. Now I dance for myself. This year I made 50 handmade ornaments for fun. Fuck it. In a year straight from the darkest timeline we have to be the light for each other. Spread joy. And sure, in the words of the tiniest Timothy, “God bless us, every one.”