Poetry Advent Calendar: 9th December

What I love most about Christmas is the sheer sparkling joy of it all. This is something that today’s poem manages to capture perfectly. The child speaker of the poem is enchanted by a magical trip to the Christmas market with his/her beloved Nanna. Notice the beautiful description: the stalls ‘shimmer in a splash of gold, / Buttery light’; the tinsel is a ‘shrill cascade…set to fall / In sea of shivering colours on the frosty / Foot-pocked earth’; the street is ‘coated with a Christmas-cake layer of frost’. The child cannot conceive of a greater happiness than this. In fact, ‘nobody under all those stars’ is ‘a half of a half of a half as happy’ as this child at Christmas.

 

Christmas Market

 

Tall, white-haired in her widow’s black,

My Nanna took me, balaclav’d from the cold,

To where stalls shimmered in a splash of gold,

Buttery light from wind-twitched lamps and all

The Christmas hoards were heaped above my eyes,

A shrill cascade of tinsel set to fall

In a sea of shivering colours on the frosty

Foot-pocked earth. I smelt the roasted nuts,

Drank heavy sarsaparilla in thick glasses far

Too hot to hold and chewed a liquorice root

That turned into a soggy yellow brush. The man

Who wound the barrel-organ let me turn

The handle and I jangled out a tune –

And ‘Lily of Laguna’ spangled out into the still night air

To go on spinning through the turning years.

Then we walked home. I clutched a bright tin car

With half-men painted on the windows, chewed a sweet

And held my Nanna’s hand as she warmed mine,

One glove lost turning out the clattering music.

And I looked up at the circus of the stars

That spread across the city and our street

Coated with a Christmas-cake layer of frost,

And nobody under all those stars I thought

Was a half of a half of a half as happy as me.

Mike Harding

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