Literary Hook: A poem to help start the Christmas season

Here’s a little poem to think about at the beginning of this Christmas season. I wrote it several years ago, but it still applies today. It was an honorable mention in the Illinois State Poetry Society’s annual contest more than 10 years ago and subsequently published in The Tenderness of Memory, by Plainview Press. My gratitude.

A Christmas Reflection

By Christine Swanberg

I walk down the cold basement stairs,

“’Tis the season to be jolly” on my mind.

When I open the cool closet doors,

Familiar musty shelves of boxes,

Crates of memories and junk sift together

Like the butter cookies I no longer eat.

Scrawled on the crumbling cardboard:

“Textbooks. Jamaica. Wedding. Will.

Christmas. Christmas. Christmas.”

Dusty plastic holly cascades from one bin.

A too cute Santa from another,

His good eye stolen by the cat.

Twenty years of grab bags, office parties,

So many well-intentioned little gifts.

So bless the crafto-maniacs who slide

Into my life like Jehovah Witnesses,

Who leave the messages I’m still too nice

To throw away. Yes, bless them.

But not this year. No. Today I’ll choose

Just one: a small crystal manger scene.

I close the chilly doors with a snap

And scurry up the stairs. I place it

On the white lace of the old dining room table

Nestled among four Advent candles.

When I turn on the Tiffany rose chandelier,

Prisms sparkle. Stars on the ceiling!

“Lo, how a rose e’er blooming.”

I light the candles in the warm room

This year, softly humming: “’Tis a gift

To be simple. ‘Tis a gift to be free.”

Christine Swanberg is a local author and poet who has written several books of poetry and formerly wrote a column called “The Writer’s Garret” for this newspaper.

From the Nov. 29 – Dec. 5, 2006, issue

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