Past foil-wrapped dark liqueurs, cough-mixture sick,
he shins up the tinsel-twisted plastic boughs,
dust musted, under chocolate snowmen, to browse
the halls of elongating sideshow-trick
glass, shaped like upturned teardrops, bells, a pear,
and snake vines of lights, amber, rose, cornflower.
He forages within and finds, wrapped up,
a big brown saltbox cabin, fifties dream
of hung stockings, log fire, chestnuts, huge tree.
He scales that, hails Bob Cratchit, sits at sup
on boar’s head with a king whose festive trunk
is oak. Too soon their calls will spoil things, bunk
like the bunk of desolating January,
the Epiphany’s epiphany: to bear
the year till hope returns. A bursting air,
all filled with Spring’s dilated agonies,
will come, Easter’s neutered, carcass re-birthed
climacteric, final and hopeless, earthed
in the gravid corpus of ritual,
dead summer’s sere incumbent forms,
yet fire in snow is warmth, and snow is warm,
for pure born myth makes winter parable
with warmth, torch-lit tales, bleeding berry-reds
on snow, a swaddled cold, quickening death
like flares through fog, lamps on bare-treed lands,
bright birth, with possibility aflame:
a year away, a year he’ll choke on, fade
throughout and die again. Now, he’ll withstand
within, inside his tree, until he’s called,
their summons into day, and now they haul
him into day, and set him tasks, you mind
the kids, go the shops, get cigs and the paper.
Reluctantly he turns from lights whose caper
he’d controlled and stretched with squints. Half-blind
he stumbles into now, adventive stray:
December twelfth, so warm it could be May.
As well as in Ink Sweat & Tears, Paul Connolly’s poems have appeared in Agenda, The Reader, Sarasvati, Envoi, Poetry Salzburg, and Scintilla. Third in the Magna Carta Competition, he was shortlisted for the Bridport and Charles Causley Prizes.