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Keeping Christmas
by
Timothy Walsh


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 Keeping Christmas Day dawns bright the morning after Twelfth Night,
the sixth of January, a date so deeply etched in our minds
by that rascal Shakespeare
who cast his fantastical net enchanting future centuries.
I am sad, but yet not sad,
for it is time for Christmas to come down.
 
 In the living room, the Christmas tree stands
so perfect in all its gaudy, glittering, garlanded height
like an eccentric cousin visiting from a more formal land.
Unwrapped presents lie piled on the velvet tree skirt
below gleaming Christmas balls that hang like planets
         from balsam boughs.
Silently, we begin the ritual undressing of the tree,
as if decommissioning a once-proud ship,
our movements mysterious, pagan, druidic….
 
 Later, the snaking strings of lights coiled for next year,
the ornaments safe in fruit boxes, the tree top angel
         tucked in tissue paper,
I pull the tree free of the stand and carry it out the door,
a trail of balsam needles littering the floor.

 Outside, a few Christmas trees are already by the curb,
sprawled beside trash bags and garbage cans,
but it is our household rule never to discard a Christmas tree.
 
 Out back, I lop off each branch, balsam pervading the air.
Balsam resin collects on my hands as I spread the boughs
         on flowerbeds.
I place the eight-foot trunk to edge the raspberries,
knowing that in summers to come each sumptuous berry
will have the taste of Christmas—
plump, acid-sweet, Santa Claus red….
 
 Standing, I see all around the yard
the trunks of Christmas trees from years past,
edging fruit trees and garden beds,
slowly decomposing,
leaching Christmas cheer and childhood
back into the teeming soil.
 
© by Timothy Walsh.
Used with the author’s permission.
Purchase a framed print of this poem.

Timothy Walsh grew up in New Jersey, but has spent the past three decades in Wisconsin. His poems and short stories have appeared widely and his awards include the Grand Prize in the Atlanta Review International Poetry Competition, the Kurt Vonnegut Fiction Prize from North American Review, and the Wisconsin Academy Fiction Prize. Nominated three times for a Pushcart Prize, he is the author of a book of literary criticism, The Dark Matter of Words: Absence, Unknowing, and Emptiness in Literature (Southern Illinois University Press) and two poetry collections, Wild Apples (Parallel Press), and Blue Lace Colander (Marsh River Editions). Currently an assistant dean at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Timothy’s inspiration comes from always walking, whenever he can, and being on or near the water whenever possible--­canoeing, kayaking, sailing, or sitting by the shore. He also enjoys tending a garden of roses, climbing vines, and fruit trees while the garden tends to him. Learn more about Timothy at http://timothyawalsh.com/.

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Post New Comment:
Jo:
A beautiful poem Tim. Brings back so many memories and some new traditions as well--using the trunk and balsam branches, "leeching Christmas cheer and childhood into the teeming soil." WOW!
Posted 01/06/2013 05:16 PM
Janet Leahy:
What great memories this stirs, Christmas always came down on the 6th, my father used the tree trunks as support poles in his garden, thanks for a lovely poem.
Posted 01/06/2013 08:51 AM
mimi:
such a perfect way to honor the tree and allow it to return to earth as intended...beautiful.
Posted 01/06/2013 08:19 AM
erinsnana:
A wonderful poem! I, too, keep my tree up until January 6, wanting to savor the scent of balsam for as long as I can. I love the idea of keeping Christmas for the whole year by scattering the boughs in the garden...
Posted 01/06/2013 04:15 AM


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