The scene is set: a red wingback chair sits by a crackling fireplace bordered on both sides by ceiling-scraping Victorian bookshelves. A mug of steaming apple cider sits on a finely carved side table, upon which also lies a leather-bound book and a pair of spectacles. The NARRATOR enters, dressed in a deep green smoking jacket and plaid pyjama pants, carrying a packed tobacco pipe, which he lights and puffs upon while settling into the chair.
Narrator (setting his pipe on a rack on the side table): Good evening, and welcome to Familiar Holiday Tales.
Tonight’s Familiar Holiday Tale is, indeed, quite well known, but it is most often rendered in lyric by young women hoping to showcase their vocal talents during middle school Christmas concerts.
Why even eat dinner.
I will just lie here
and forget existence.
You stood on ocean’s edge and watched the gulls,
the only movement in a late September
sky: a matte grey, featureless expanse.
At least the ocean, also grey, had life:
it licked the painted shore and glittered in
the gemstone beach. You knelt above the line
the water lapped and hooked your hair behind
an ear as, leaning down, it threatened to
become a veil. You put your palm against
the sand and curled your fingers, drawing dry
sea earth into your fist. You straightened, pulled
your hand up to your chest, and opened it.
The sand sieved out, each grain between your fingers
lost, and overwhelmed when it found land.
A strand of hair escaped your ear, encouraged
by a breeze that found the final grains
upon your hand and coaxed them off, your fingers
closing just a second late to save
them. Something pricked your skin. Surprised, you opened
up your hand again, revealing in
your palm a polished piece of ocean glass,
too large to sieve through fingers and too heavy
to be blown away by wind.
hold onto me and I will never leave.
My dying days are done;
like rising rays of sun,
no longer will I be content
to lie down, slowly die, I’m meant
to serve you, bring you daywarmth in your night;
to keep you, be your comfort, hold you tight;
but too, be your deliverer:
I’m meant to name you traveler,
plant flowers where you run.
My dying days are done;
I need to put that shade away
and learn to live another way,
where colour blooms like thermal hotspring blue
in more than just your eyes, but all that you
direct those glowing eyes upon.
My love, my dying days are done,
my dying days are done,
my dying days are done.
I could not tell if it was male or female, therefore
according to Schrödinger’s cat this cat was both male and female;
it let me sit with it, watch it, feel it, and experience it,
but it did not follow me all the way home and, instead,
was content to find its own sustenance;
it was not perfect as I understand perfect,
but that was okay, it was a kind cat;
it seemed glad that I existed beside it, but
it did not seem to need me;
who else would meet me at two in the morning
and why wouldn’t it be a cat,
sitting patiently on a newspaper box,
generously allowing me to find comfort in its musty,
musky fur and
its wide eyes and humming throat?
I think it found some comfort too.
I wonder how many folks sit with God when
God is a cat with two tufts where its tail used to be.
I could have spent longer with God but I was tired
and someone thought I seemed suspicious,
standing as I was on the corner of the street half-dressed and
I wonder how many times God has heard that excuse.
Thank God I am only mildly allergic to cats;
I may find salvation yet.
Our feet carved lines in gravel, loose within
the bed eroded from the bluff (they sought
for rest inside the roots of hardy plants);
and grasses, sharply bladed, did the same:
before the barnacles at ocean’s edge
could match them line for line they dipped their quills
in our red ink, and carved in silence names
and stories that would not be read until
our language changed and barnacles inscribed
the characters anew; but, even then,
the sea spoke louder, clearer; hear, the cold
assaulting, creeping up our shorts, the taste
of salt inside our mouths. Our feet were clean
and braced against the waves; above the crash,
embraced, we listened to the ocean sing
and laughed to know the words, the song, the dance.
Along the beach, the lines upon our feet
found voice, or we found ears. The sting was just
the words; the message was not pain: the grass,
the barnacles, with sharpness whispered, “Love!”
In thin, crisscrossing lines upon our feet
our journey said, “Rejoice, be soft, remember.”
Oh Lord, I cry out to you;
Day and night I cry out,
“Lord, have mercy!”
Is there a language you do not speak?
Is there a groaning you cannot hear, oh Lord?
Is there a language you do not understand?
I speak with the tongue you gave me, Lord,
And yet, I am not heard:
Truly, even I do not understand my moaning.
Oh Lord, I cry out to you!
The wind has passed, oh God–
I have been torn to pieces!–
The earthquake has passed, oh Lord–
I have fallen to the deep places!–
The fire has passed, Father:
Lo! my body has burned away!
Where are you in the silence that surrounds me?
Oh Lord, I have been quiet,
Waiting for you to comfort me.
Lord, have mercy on your servant.
Day and night I lie as a dead person,
Waiting for a still small voice,
Panting for a gentle whisper:
I lie as a female goat–even as a pigeon,
I lie on the horns of your altar–
My God, my God! how long must I lay as one who is dead?
Oh Lord, you have sealed my mouth with fire;
My God, as coal you have hardened my heart;
Lord, my limbs have been made wooden;
How, oh Lord, can I speak to you?
Where is your spirit, Lord?
I am not afraid of your tongue of fire.
I am dry as kindling in the desert;
I cry out to you, oh Lord,
Day and night I cry out,
“Have mercy on me!”