The Christmas Book
Treasure Island, Black Beauty, Heidi,
Lorna Doone, Oliver Twist, Huckleberry Finn
all populated Christmases past
(I can hear Marley’s chains rattling).
Their names are reeling spools,
a child’s cinema on a dark winter morning,
a galloping horse, a raft on a wide river,
a high mountain top.
Under a duvet sky I ran by the moon
of the torch with The Famous Five across moors.
I watched Anne’s dreams unfurl on Prince Edward Island,
realise her courage in those journeys to family and love.
You could never be lonely with a window
to a wider world, another’s passion processed,
a transfer of energy, a most sincere communication,
a leaving for foreign places, and always a coming home.
Books are the real fairy tales.
The Drama of Red
Salmon trousers, dog’s strawberry
waistcoat. Crimson, the queen’s uniform,
while trooping the colour.
Imperial, the blood of the stag
shot at Balmoral in The Crown.
Rust, the leaf in the stream’s belly
fevered in flow to river.
Ruby, the pour of Pinot Noir.
Candy apple, the candle pillar,
and golden, its still flame.
Darkness in the folds of petals
of roses painted in frame,
holding creation, and death
at their centre, dripping dew
like melting beads of wax.
And everywhere, Christmas!
In the aisles of Aldi and Lidl signs
and fiery tinsel rustling, as birds had,
behind hedges, orange breasted,
with fluttering wings on a grey morning.
The Salvation Plant (New Year, 2020)
“Why should a man die whilst sage grows in his garden?” – Old English Proverb
There is no easy way to grow wisdom,
no short cut to peace and acceptance.
Until you learn a lesson, or have the courage
to try something new, nothing will change.
Why does it take so long? Why is it painful?
Looking in the mirror I saw deformity,
a twisted gnarling, a satyr-like,
shadow of a burning tree.
Midday misting rain descends on muddy green,
depleted countryside, though daffodil shoots
emerge from roots. The only deal worth keeping
is with myself this year.
I might escape in the strength of my own song.
I want to go out into the weather,
experience the day in fresh,
wet brush strokes on skin.
In the struggle for grace in morning’s prison
he rises, wipes sleep from eyes, stretches
in still darkness before lighting a candle.
Enthralled by its beauty, the warbling flame,
dancing shadows cast, he hums an old, familiar tune,
remembers a friend he loved, hears horns of joy,
sonorous bass in the lifeblood inside himself,
the drumming heart. This same ritual,
performed for centuries. The pilgrim, home.
Day stirring, frees herself, in maiden dawn-dress
white with mist, a gown for the occasion,
her grey veil gradually lifts and there is bonniness
in simple tasks while winter birds chirp reminders:
make coffee, make toast, mix the Christmas cake,
how good it is to breathe, taste, see and hear.
There are no gallows anon, no plank to walk.
This is no Ballad of Reading Gaol.
Stronger than any epoch is the resolve
that spring will return, a jungle of cornucopia.
Snowdrops will be seen with dew for the first time.
From this year’s baptism, we will rise anew.
How to Fall on Ice
Frost comes to say
Slow down! Stay at home!
But the body wants movement,
tightness and burning of muscle,
filling of lungs, quickening heart rate,
shifting of chi, spreading of wings,
swan on river.
Black ice proves deceitful.
In the town centre sparse shoppers
slip and slide to cross the road.
Why did the chicken wear spikes
on her shoes? Paths are dry and clear
where glorious morning sunshine
has cracked her orange yolk.
On YouTube an American TV reporter
questions a stuntman. How to fall on ice?
He recommends bending knees,
twisting sideways, and tucking head.
Do not lean back or stretch your arms out.
Never expect someone to catch your fall.
Pick yourself up. Dust yourself off.
Orla Fay is the editor of Drawn to the Light Press. She is the Poetry Town Laureate for Dunshaughlin, County Meath. Recently her work has appeared in Southword, Crow of Minerva and Abridged. She is working on her second chapbook What Became of the Horses and received a professional artist development bursary from Meath County Council Arts Office and Creative Ireland earlier in the year.