A poem about welcome guests…
Like an early fall of festive snow
Sent from a flat, blank sky;
Bringing a gentle, momentary reshaping
And bright retouching of our world.
An altered light and shift in sounds;
A different music to our ears.
Old things recast and seen afresh;
New footprints and angel-wings on familiar ground.
The everyday briefly suspended;
A borrowed grace, all too quickly gone –
Leaving us wistful, wishing for more
But enriched, and warmed right through.
This week, we’ve had the privilege and pleasure of being a host family in a long-established, highly successful exchange between the music department at our daughter’s school, and its counterpart at a school in Germany. As is customary, the visitors performed alongside our youngsters in the town’s main church at our school’s Carol Service, which is open to the whole community (it’s also recorded live by the local radio station, which then broadcasts it on Christmas Eve). It’s always a wonderful, moving occasion, made all the more poignant this year by the dreadful events in Berlin, which had unfolded the previous evening. Our guest (whose family generously hosted our daughter on the exchange’s ‘away’ leg back in July) was absolutely delightful and quickly became part of the household; we’re already looking forward to seeing her again this time next year.
Frohe Weihnachten, one and all. N.
I will not go back in.
Not for a while –
Though the thin light fades
And rooks wheel, homebound, over the leafless wood.
I am now outside the walls
Released, alone, in a voiceless winter
Rejoicing in the silence.
There is no echo here.
We shiver in a sunless solstice, soaked in rain
Whipped in on winds from the western sea;
The country cloaked in colourless cloud,
All mirth a memory, all merriment a mockery.
The fire flickers, the flame faint and fitful
As the cold comes creeping closer
And the little light that’s left to us is lost.
Our dreams are done. Dark days indeed.
Night was never so long as this
As we stand, at bay, behind our white walls
Gazing out over a cold black sea
To where the golden lights still sparkle warmly:
No wish or need to look behind us,
Certain that a brooding sky
Is bloodied now from east to west
By the glow of distant fires
While those that set them have slipped away
And those that stand in hope beside them
Feel no warmth, see only shadows;
And we who wait and watch, aghast
Are robbed of any way or will
To try to put them out.
We’ve almost reached the Winter Solstice, and the shortest day (or longest night) of the year. Normally, I’d be eagerly awaiting this moment when, slowly but surely, the daylight hours start to lengthen again; but this year, it feels as though a darkness has settled permanently over these islands, and I’m not sure what to expect or hope for in the months ahead. We are, indeed, a benighted country. N.