Friday, 23 December 2011

The Christmas Train - verse, images and good wishes.

It’s Christmas Eve and a goodly part of today will be spent in the kitchen. My plans include the butter chicken curry which the kids have requested for their dinner tomorrow as well as a cucumber sorbet that will form part of the dessert. It’s good to be at home, my family around me. It’s good to be able to afford to give everyone a splendid meal and gifts that will make them smile. All is good and that it as it should be. 

It’s Christmas Eve so indulge me while I get a little philosophical. 

Some Christmasses (is that how you make the plural? Spell check doesn’t seem to like it.) ago, I wrote a poem for my children. One was still a baby. The other was a toddler newly-diagnosed with an intellectual disability. The challenges that lay in the future seemed huge and insurmountable. I wasn’t sure if I was personally up to meeting those challenges but I did know that I was going to have to give it my best try. The poem was my way of trying to put into words what I wanted for them both. Material gifts I could manage, but the other things were going to be harder to achieve.

It’s Christmas Eve so please be kind. I play with words in the same way I play in the kitchen. Not a professional, just an enthusiastic amateur trying to find a way to express what I want for my kids and what we all should want for ourselves.

It’s Christmas Eve and my gift to you is my poem, The Christmas Train. 

Love & peace & happy times in the kitchen for 2012


The Strawberry Thief


For my children.

One Christmas evening
While you two were sleeping
I sat outside
In the warm summer breeze
Sat outside under
The old jacaranda
Watching the Southern Cross
Shine through the trees

All of a sudden
I spotted a movement
Perhaps a comet
More likely a plane.
So I looked harder
And, scarcely believing,
Gasped when I saw
In the starlight, a train.

I couldn’t move
As the engine chugged closer
Pulling two wagons along
In its wake
All I could do was sit,
Marvelling in silence.
The train thundered near,
The world started to shake

The glorious steam engine
Was dazzling, was golden
It lit up the night sky
As if it were day
The huge wheels revolved,
Sending out sparks of fire
They turned on the track
Of the wide Milky Way

I saw that a driver
Was steering the engine
He clanged the bell loudly and
Oh! What a sound!
The chimes seemed to echo
All over the heavens
The sky shook
The trees shook
The petals rained down.

I saw too, a stoker,
With sacks full of opals
And these he was shovelling
Into the fire
Out of the chimney
Came puffs of pure rainbow
Which glimmered and curled
And swirled higher and higher

I saw the first wagon -
A wagon of crystal
This wagon was loaded
With wonderful toys
All carefully chosen
(For I recognised them)
The gifts I had picked out
For my little boys

I saw the rope ladder,
The puzzles, the teddy,
The bicycle, tricycle,
Tiny toy cars
The picture books, crayons,
The hoop and the scooter
All on that train
Which was crossing the stars

I thought of the months I spent
Saving, selecting
To get what you wanted
To buy you the best
I’d dreamt of your smiles
As you unwrapped your presents
And blithely agreed to
Your every request

Then came the next wagon
All misty and pearly
Its shape pale and fragile
Against the black sky
And inside this wagon
I saw all the presents
I wanted to give you
But I couldn’t buy

Beautiful, ribbon-wrapped boxes of talent
Vials of intelligence
Flagons of wealth
Sackfuls of happiness and popularity
Heaps of humility, peace and good health.

Cartons of friendliness,
Crates of good judgement
Stacks of longevity
Parcels of love.
Oh, how I wanted
To stop that pale wagon
And pull all those precious gifts
Down from above

The bell rang again
And the train puffed on upwards
Through clouds made of opals and stars
It steamed on
I looked and I listened
And watched it grow smaller
Then, just like the dawn star,
It gleamed and was gone.

I heard the bells ring
And I knew it was Christmas
I went back inside
You were both still asleep.
Neither of you had been
Disturbed by the engine
Your heads on your pillows,
Your slumber still deep.

I sat by your beds
And I made you a promise
That I’d do my best
As each Christmas goes by
To help you achieve for yourselves
All those gifts
That I saw in that wagon of mist
In the sky.

Notes that were written when I rediscovered the poem after a few years:
(copied October 2007)

I found these verses, incomplete – many lacunae, in a note book that was about 4 or 5 years old. I recognise it as having been written during a very unhappy Christmastime when I wasn’t sure what the future would bring and could only hope for the best. Interesting to note that I wrote this long before “The Polar Express” film hit movie theatres with a similar message about the intangible gifts that mothers want for their children. Perhaps it is a bit maudlin and sentimental but it did move me to tears when I re-read it after so long.

(recopied 2009 – fixed up the lacunae. It is not a million miles away from “The Night Before Christmas”, I see that now. I still hope that it bears more of a resemblance to W.H Auden’s “Here is the Night Train” because that was the metre I wanted to copy. There was a conscious effort to make it an Australian poem. The sentiments are still the same.)