On the seventh day of Christmas…Dick Jones and James Naiden

 

 

 

 

Stille Nacht

 

On the night
that I was born,
the bells rang out
across the world.

In Coventry, in Dresden,
the cathedral bones sheltered
worshippers with candles,
witnessing the ruins.

In Auschwitz-Birkenau,
the story goes,
the death’s-head guards
sang, “Stille nacht,

heilige nacht”.  Their voices
slid across the Polish snow.
The sweetest tenor was Ukrainian,
the man they called Peter the Silent.

He never spoke and he killed
with a lead-filled stick.
In the Union Factory, packing shells,
they dreamed of Moses.

**

In Horton Kirby, fields froze
and ice deadlocked the lanes.
My father rose in the cold
blue-before-dawn light

and cycled sideways,
wreathed in silver mist,
to the hospital.  Each turn
of the track betrayed him

and scarred by thorns and gravel,
he bled by our bedside.
My mother laughed, she remembers,
as the nurse administered.

“Been in the wars?” she asked.
Outside, across the Weald,
from out of a cloudless dawn
the buzz bombs crumpled London.

**
Outside a town in the Ardennes
Private Taunitz hung
like a crippled kite
high in a tree.

A cruciform against the sky,
he seemed to run forever
through the branches,
running home for the new year.

Outside Budapest three men
diced for roubles
in the shelter of a tank.
Fitful rain, a moonless night.

Sasha struck a match
across the red star
on his helmet, the red star
that led them to this place.

Extra vodka, extra cigarettes,
a rabbit stewed,
the tolling of artillery
to celebrate the day.

**

The blackouts drawn,
December light invaded.
We awoke, slapped hard
by the early world.

Our siren voices
climbed into the morning,
a choir of outrage,
insect-thin but passionate.

Through tears our parents
smiled: within the song
of our despair they heard
a different tune.

And as our voices
sucked the air, swallowing
the grumble of the bombs,
only the bells survived.

 

In addition to thirty-five years of teaching drama in progressive schools, Dick Jones has been an avid musician all his life, playing bass guitar in rock, blues, and folk bands. He lives outside London with his wife and children, and blogs at: Dick Jones’ Patteran Pages.

 

First published in Ancient Lights by Dick Jones, Phoenicia Publishing

 

 

 

 Christmas? Xmas? The New Year?

 

The symbols, words, for these days are stars,

Gliding in the stratosphere, abating the cold

& not letting us sleep the winter away.

The pig’s foot, the goat’s face, the fox’s twitter –

All these are a reversion to human plunder

Of other creatures’ identity, even the mule

On which Mary is supposed to have ridden

To the manger – to give birth, what else?

 

I am less sure of the story than of my capacity

To believe what I was told by those with cons

In their heads, outrageous fables of glued references,

Mortification, glorious state-induced suicide.

I celebrate with everyone else, but not the death wishes,

The inferred damnation of dissenters’ red-&-white faces.

 

 

 

James Naiden’s third novel, The Chafings of Mortals, was published in 2011. He lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota and is a regular reviewer for IS&T.

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