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A Glimpse of Star: Christmas Poems


Lying on my futon
I opened your homemade Christmas card.
Loose gold glitter sprinkled
across my black-jerseyed chest,
my navy-blue comforter.
You had turned my bed
to starlight sky
and made me a part of it.
For days
I left the cosmos in tact,
slipping carefully under covers
feeling like a god
enfolded in firmament.
You won’t believe it.
This spring
I cleaned the apartment:
Files lining the cream-colored cabinet,
clothes stacked in the corner
as straight as the books
in unpainted shelves,
audio and video cassettes
columned like giant, surreal teeth
beneath the VCR.
Even the doorway’s Indian rug
now smiles in small loops of pearl white.
Still, sometimes when the light falls right,
I discover a glimpse of star
gleaming on the clean-swept
dark tile bathroom floor
or cradled in cracked pages
of old poetry books
I last read at Christmas.


December 21st, near 6 pm,
you stand on Fifth Avenue, gaze immersed
in Bergdorf Goodman’s vast “Compendium
of Curiosities.” My mind forms verse,
not from etched, reflective reveries of
glowing glass throughout holiday windows,
but from watching you celebrate this trove
of art and artifacts. This eve bestows
winter solstice, love. All clocks mark this time,
though we’d never know now our sun stands still.
Snow clouds have rushed our night. Their stout forms climb
and mass, covering dusk’s light. Yet you fill
our space with stardust, praise crystal display
of unicorns. Your eyes chase chill away.


Christmas makes me cry
Need I tell you why
I miss her like wine
we aged over time
to drink when we dined
at Christmas
I miss her like light
vast starscape at night
She made my life bright
at Christmas
I used to believe
you spent Christmas Eve
with a lover
a partner
a friend
but this year I’ve learned
Christmas candles won’t burn
You discover
you’re lonely
I miss her like air
see her everywhere
although she’s not there
at Christmas
Christmas makes me cry
Need I tell you why



for Joan and Frank
Today we celebrate our late mother’s
birthday, December 23rd. I smile,
recalling her pose for photographers,
feigning a coquettish cover-girl style
on our couch or front doorstep. We three kids
would laugh as she turned family snapshots
into five-second fashion shoots, eyelids
fluttering, hazel eyes wide like in plots
of silent movies, lips pursed like Lily
Damita. She never complained, that I
recall, of her long days and nights. Early
mornings she prepped breakfasts and ham on rye
for school; managed the Prospect each evening,
locking the movie-house doors when leaving.



Oh, how close I move to this glowing white
flame, stretching, flickering like a searing
saber nearly singeing my brow. Its light,
symbol of world’s salvation—appearing
a miracle floating on crimson wax
pool nearly cresting small tan wooden bowl—
suddenly softens, leans toward your relaxed
frame, love. Leans more, and I gaze into soul
of your candle eyes, their glowing white flames
singeing my frame, your candle smile calling
me to you, warm air caroling our names.
How close I move to you, our forms falling
as one, stretching, flickering like searing
sabers, world’s salvation all endearing.




Hear it telegraphing its metaphor,
love? Calling its falling an endless herd
of small ponies prancing (their hooves never
stampeding) across our yard. Every word
supports its rhythm, sends their dancing forms
forward, off across the countryside while
somehow remaining here with us. They’re charms
in its meter, dear. We believe its mild
voice whispering, its predicting our near
season when soft gaits glancing off our roof
gently signal landing, resting reindeer
lightly stamping, offering perfect proof
a saint will soon enter our house—even
here where we see no snow—bringing heaven.






I listen to carols. I look at you.
This simply helps me loving through dark night.
Nancy’s Carol of the Bells sails me through
your eyes to gray-blue skies glowing starlight.
I listen to carols. I look at you.
Nancy’s Christmas Waltz fills old Santa’s sleigh
with things for you and me, for me a view
of your blessed face. The oh-holy-night way
you look back at me. Your hark-the-herald
smile, touch gentle as Nancy’s White Christmas.
She ballads All Through the Night. How I’ve held
you through visions of light revealing vast
dreams, softly spoken. Christmas white and blue.
I listen to carols. I look at you.






Catherine in Chapala with her earth
tones—palm-tree green to varied tans to red
and violet bougainvillea—each worth
gold’s value to artists. All this added
to her earth-tone eyes capturing each shade
of land and town walls as warm sun rises
and descends and rises, sacred light made
for inspiration. And you in progress
at your shop with sky hues of ebony,
gray and azure columning new surface
for old chest of drawers, our epiphany:
scarred, worn wood resurrected and embraced
as we have been—a madrigal possessed
with truth: how Art and Memory are blessed.





We’ve inscribed and secured our love padlock
on the bridge’s railing, kissed softly and
deeply in one long breath, our inner clock
strolling us now along narrow dark bands
of wood toward the Louvre, the walkway’s lined trees
and lamp posts scattered with glowing Christmas.
Artists display their paintings, say they’ll please
as gifts for friends. A rebel pair we pass
picnic on a bench, ritual confined
mainly to summer. Gazing at the Seine,
we see a party boat, revelers wined
and dancing. Near shore, a duck flock complains,
crowds to keep warm. They look like rice pilaf,
you muse. We cuddle like kittens and laugh.






Here’s the sonnet I was going to write:
Gazing out at lashing ice giving way
to blizzard, still enwrapped by townhouse light
and warmth, my romantic mind forms a play:
What if I donned heavy coat and boots with
scarf guarding my face, walked through storm to you,
my stumbling journey brave essence of myth,
spirit guiding me, morphing my thick shoes
to wings? I rise, fend off sleet and stark flakes,
sail over stalled highways, pearl-flocked forests,
darkened villages and mist-frozen lakes,
easing down at your front door. My form tests
Zhivago, refugee from winter war,
hovering at Lara’s gate. Would you stare,
send me away, knowing I’d come so far?





for Maggie Cavanaugh
What did Joseph say?
“I could find only this stable.”
What did Mary say?
“Then here we will stay.”
Where did they sleep?
They placed hay in a corner
to make a mattress
and covered themselves
with their only blanket.
And that night Jesus was born!
Yes, that very night.
Can we go see the stable one day?
It’s not there any more.
Can we go see where it was?
No one knows where it stood…
Wait…yes, there is someone:
In a little apartment…A little apartment like ours?
Yes, on an old street in Bethlehem,
a small child…just about your age…
wakes up every Christmas Eve
to see a glowing light
in a corner of the room
and angels descending
like gentle rain through moonbeams.
They kneel and kiss the light
then rise like shining mist
into the starry night.
The light fades to dark
and the child goes back to sleep
to dream glowing dreams.And only the little child knows.
Yes. Only the little child.


I have dug out this small fir
these roots from earth
to carry to you
to share with you
gentle touch
of wrapping limbs
with ribbons of bright cloth
slender rain of icicles
topped with my last dollar’s compromise:
a frail and wrinkled star
cut out of a Budweiser can.
We have dressed the tree
and now undress:
You drop waitress’s skirt and cap
your thick dark hair
cascading to shoulders
like night
over slender horizon of snow.
You lift my rumpled jeans
from the floor
brush sawdust and dirt
away with care
and move my open textbook
from your side of the bed
setting it on our only chair
as a scholar genuflects to thought.
You slide under our lone cover.
Push next to me.
Our heads rest on an old coat.
We hold one another like roots.
Gaze at the tree
alight from pulse of neon
flowing through shadeless window
reflecting your deep brown eyes
falling into mine of blue.
Never mind those eyes far from us
who turned away
when we spoke of love.
(Why did they stalk to ancient altars
vowing to never forgive?)
We have this tree
this bed to bind us
with something stronger
than rings or words
from slit-eyed rabbis and priests.
Our bodies glow.
We nod in silence
our eyes aflame
blazing in our feast of lights.






Sitting above Beit Sahour, the hill’s peak
letting him see Bethlehem’s distant lights
merely two kilometers away—meek
shepherds walking there once he’d rocked their night
of calm in the cave, announcing the birth—
he decides to serenade their sheep, his
voice soft and pure, like spring wind kissing earth,
deep peace filling all touched by gentle kiss.
He recalls how, months earlier, he had
startled the shy, young virgin, waking her
from sleep. How she seemed frightened, even sad
at first to learn wondrous seed had entered,
void of passion. How she knelt whispering,
eyes closed. He studies the far star’s flaring.





Since the three astrologers had agreed
Jupiter hovered in Aries, they weren’t
surprised by the morning star. They would heed
its sign, detour their camels and wind-burnt
faces south to Petra, buy frankincense—
pale pellets like unwashed crystal—and myrrh
to honor the newborn king. It made sense
to Caspar and Melchior: They’d defer
to guides when reaching Bethlehem, locate
the babe, then report news back to Herod.
Balthazar growled his discontent. “What fate
awaits a child who threatens fearful gods?”
he whispered. Their dream echoed his omen.
So they went, worshipped, then fled through Ammon.


Having dimmed his inn’s lights, he walked through chilled
night to check the stable, holding warm soup
chest-close, fresh vegetables to help fill
the soft-spoken couple; glanced through slight loop
of curtain to avoid disrupting her
breast-feeding the child, now a week old. How
surprised he was. Three stylish men knelt there
at the manger, bright robes draping damp straw
and soil. One lifted a small, carved chest
of gold coins; one held the medicine
myrrh; the third waved putrid incense, a pest
repellant to Abdeel’s nose. Cause a scene?
Not him. He’d enter, bow, faking a cough,
hoping his charity at last paid off.


Midnight, end of Christmas Day, and all light
vanishes sudden as gasp from townhouse.
Soprano singing Mozart flicks off. Night
floods living room. I feel my way like soused
reveler upstairs to find flashlight, stare
at blank computer screen. Then coiled serpent
of winter cold slithers through darkened lair,
my bare frame swept in sweat clothes. I repent
lost words for your sonnet, pray they’ll return
with revived currents. Two days pass. Lying
under daughter’s crocheted afghan, I yearn
to see your smile, gaze at candlelight, sing
oh so softly carol flowing from my
Walkman, pretend we’re warmed by angels’ eyes.



Roger Armbrust

Roger Armbrust's articles and columns have covered labor and management, Congressional legislation, and federal court cases, including appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court. He formerly served as national news editor of Back Stage in New York City, where he also taught a professional writing course at New York University. His recent book of sonnets -- oh, touch me there: Love Sonnets -- is available from Amazon and other book sites. He is an associate curator of The Clyde Fitch Report. He is also co-founder and co-curator of reality: a world of views.

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