Saturday, December 17, 2011

Poem In Your Post: The Death of Santa Claus (read on at your own risk!)

The Death of Santa Claus

He's had the chest pains for weeks,
but doctors don't make house
calls to the North Pole,

he's let his Blue Cross lapse,
blood tests make him faint, 
hospital gowns always flap

open, waiting rooms upset
his stomach, and it's only
indigestion anyway, he thinks,

until, feeding the reindeer,
he feels as if a monster fist
has grabbed his heart and won't

stop squeezing. He can't
breathe, and the beautiful white
world he loves goes black,

and he drops on his jelly belly
in the snow and Mrs. Claus
tears out of the toy factory

wailing, and the elves wring
their little hands, and Rudolph's
nose blinks like a sad ambulance

light, and in a tract house
in Houston, Texas, I'm 8,
telling my mom that stupid

kids at school say Santa's a big
fake, and she sits with me
on our purple-flowered couch,

and takes my hand, tears
in her throat, the terrible
news rising in her eyes.

-          Charles Webb

I admire how Charles Webb works me up into a fit of shocked indignation and then uses the surprise he's conjured to create empathy for the young speaker and his mom here.  It's a skillful manipulation of emotion for a worthy end, reminding us how painful the loss of our imaginary heroes and their magic can be.

Then I thought of this Wordsworth sonnet, a classic of the Romantic period, in which he more straightforwardly exhorts us to return to the magical intensity of times past (albeit focused on connection with the natural world).  Rather interesting to ponder the first few lines in this season of shopping as well. (Did I say shopping?  I meant 'giving'.)

                                                                  The World Is Too Much With Us

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon,
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not.--Great God! I'd rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.

                                      - William Wordsworth

Do you have a favorite seasonal poem to offer?  I would be so grateful if you would share it in the comments, or on your blog with a link in the comments.


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