December

For this last “Months” post of the year — and please don’t take this as a knock against December poems (I thought about mentioning W. S. Di Piero’s “Chicago and December,” or Linda Bierds’ “The Neon Artist in December,” or Kenn Nesbitt’s kids’ poem “December 26.” or any number of excellent poems about snow) — I just must revel for a moment longer in Dylan Thomas’s A Child’s Christmas in Wales (because the rule is you have until New Year’s Day to finish up the Christmas books). I love it for all its wonder and humor and nostalgia, but even more so for the language, which alternates between lush, luxuriously alliterative figurative passages like,

All the Christmases roll down toward the two-tongued sea, like a cold and headlong moon bundling down the sky that was our street; and they stop at the rim of the ice-edged fish-freezing waves, and I plunge my hands in the snow and bring out whatever I can find. In goes my hand into that wool-white bell-tongued ball of holidays resting at the rim of the carol-singing sea and out come Mrs. Prothero and the firemen.

(such a joy to say aloud), and the simpler telling of what happened,

And when the firemen turned off the hose and were standing in the wet, smoky room, Jim’s Aunt, Miss Prothero, came downstairs and peered in at them. Jim and I waited, very quietly, to hear what she would say to them. She said the right thing, always. She looked at the three tall firemen in their shining helmets, standing among the smoke and cinders and dissolving snowballs, and she said: “Would you like anything to read?”

The moves that first passage’s images make are so rapid and, upon closer inspection, surprisingly dense in their changes. First the Christmases (which is to say the memory of Christmases) are rolling, a more or less basic turn of speech (one turns thoughts over in one’s mind, etc.), but then a moment later they have rolled into a single thing, and that thing is a moon and suddenly the world at hand has been inverted, and the street is the sky. Then comes “I plunge my hands in the snow” and the Christmases have changed from the moon to a big snowball, without explicit mention but without any confusion either. “Wool-white bell-tongued ball of holidays” is fantastic to say, and the saying of it sounds bell-like, and it also switches it back from the singular moon image to a multitude of holidays. All in two sentences. (Must have been written by a poet…)

This is the last of the Months posts, since the year is up. In 2013 I’ll continue to do a regular once-a-month series, in addition to other posts of course, this time focusing on animal poems. (I was debating between several potential topics, but animals won out due to my nearly-four year old nephew. He received quite a few little toy animals for Christmas, and at one point he was playing with them and with his new set of blocks and making, as he described it, “tunnels for tapirs.” Which is adorable. So for 2013’s monthly series, animals it is.)

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