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Contraries: December

read by the author

Something denser perhaps. Than bits of snow
Balanced on the wind, lighting and melting
Against old timber in a factory yard.
A thing more rich, and something solider
Than the empty grey light of these three rooms
Where my footsteps echo and stop. I pluck
A dry chord from the guitar, set it down.
A square truck rattles past, whirling the snow.
Someone real, an animal, a woman   
Humming into the fire, sharing the cold.


Broken toys in the hallway, thick
Yellow lamplight, and basement smells of stew.
We plunge from early dark into intense
Pools of yellow light; we, millions.
The stairs fall back slowly.
                All families
Have a cabbage-smell; nonetheless, tired of my own
Boundaries, I think of others, imagine voices
Of other children. These things I want,
And I reject my want, preferring
Long nights where the phone squats quietly.


I know enough to say that snow is wrong —
As it packs the angles of walls, and spreads
Touching all forms with ignominy:
Strange stuff that, singly, can’t resist the heat
Of a cupped hand, yet builds, and heavy,
And trodden has a look of quiet permanence.
Other things — still props for a sluggish mind —
As rock, or the colour green — not posing
As beyond, will do perhaps. But snow’s
A sign for purity, and always wrong.           


That sharp-boned miser, hugging his candle-flame,
Peaked and costive — a horrible man!

In a wide room with light and tinsel
We ignore details: the deep
Bewilderment of children, the small hand
That selects and clutches. Even our hates
Have lost their edge. Refill your whisky.

This child has a clear beauty. Jiggle
His bright unnecessary toy.
                    A man
Half-understood, his cold thought out of season.


These hanging cards: outback scenes, holly,
St. Francis ringed with geometric birds —
A few scratched words to ease astringent
Silences. Tokens, I thought. Except
That yesterday in one or two I found
Something most shy and tentative — and I stood
Perplexed with my ingratitude, as the thin
Flakes, now tenuous but individual,
Fell straight, and with disappointing quickness
Fused with the general moisture on the ground.


A child attacks me with a water-gun,
Trips, gashes his eye. I like the way
He checks his weeping while the frightened blood
Stains his hand. The house is heavy with smells
Of sickness. The woman cries out to the snow.
Her husband brings her blankets as I comfort
The boy, who suddenly grows calm,
And grins. The day steadies.
This year I’ll try to praise what’s warm:
What’s suffering, ambiguous, uncertain.