Twas the Night Before Christmas

December 24, 2012 § Leave a comment

Fitzroy checking to see if it’s for him

“… ‘But Gold was not all. The other kings bring Frank Innocence and Mirth.’ | Darcourt was startled, then delighted. ‘That is very fine, Yerko; is it your own?’ | ‘No, it is in the story. I saw it in New York. The kings say, We bring you Gold, Frank Innocence, and Mirth.’ | ‘Sancta simplicitas,’ said Darcourt, raising his eyes to mine. ‘If only there were more Mirth in the message He has left to us. We miss it sadly, in the world we have made. And Frank Innocence. Oh, Yerko, you dear man.’ …”

Robertson Davies, The Rebel Angels

I’m going to try to make my Christmas mirthful, but right now I’m just hoping to feel what I feel now: love for family, friends, Facebook friends, animals, oceans and trees. It’s funny from how many places joy can emerge when you give up hoping for the things you used to hope for, and merely think of life as something to watch and taste and think about. Of course, sadness can come out lots of ways too, and I just have to let that be.

It’s a beautiful sunny day, the food stores full of people, but not too full; A saxophonist was playing in the park, though it was cold; I talked to a neighbor who’s hosting a big celebration—which gave me a twinge of envy—;and gave my pocket change to the homeless man who always sits in front of Citarella.

This weekend we had a holiday dinner with my niece Ramona, who was sweet and dear as always, and we’ll be seeing Delilah after New Year’s. Sadly, the grandsons won’t be here, as planned, but Jaden already opened his Christmas present from us—a book on how to program computer games—and last I heard (a few hours after he opened it) had already programmed one. He’s probably programmed six or seven by now. As his mother said, “I’m so damn proud.”

I heard /watched Hannah and Myles playing piano on Facebook and my mother is hosting Whitney, Steffen and eight-year-old Daniel. My cousin Roberta got through surgery and is doing well, and my friends are with their families. So even though our Christmas will be quiet, it’s all good. We’ll take a walk in the park and get the cats stoned on catnip. Then I’ll cook a duck breast, and we’ll eat all the Christmas candy.

I looked up poems with “Christmas” in them and found this—not precisely a Christmas poem, but close enough for me. Anyway, Langston Hughes is good all the time.

Theme for English B

The instructor said,

Go home and write
a page tonight.
And let that page come out of you—
Then, it will be true.

I wonder if it’s that simple?
I am twenty-two, colored, born in Winston-Salem.
I went to school there, then Durham, then here
to this college on the hill above Harlem.
I am the only colored student in my class.
The steps from the hill lead down into Harlem,
through a park, then I cross St. Nicholas,
Eighth Avenue, Seventh, and I come to the Y,
the Harlem Branch Y, where I take the elevator
up to my room, sit down, and write this page:

It’s not easy to know what is true for you or me
at twenty-two, my age. But I guess I’m what
I feel and see and hear, Harlem, I hear you:
hear you, hear me—we two—you, me, talk on this page.
(I hear New York, too.) Me—who?
Well, I like to eat, sleep, drink, and be in love.
I like to work, read, learn, and understand life.
I like a pipe for a Christmas present,
or records—Bessie, bop, or Bach.
I guess being colored doesn’t make me not like
the same things other folks like who are other races.
So will my page be colored that I write?

Being me, it will not be white.
But it will be
a part of you, instructor.
You are white—
yet a part of me, as I am a part of you.
That’s American.
Sometimes perhaps you don’t want to be a part of me.
Nor do I often want to be a part of you.
But we are, that’s true!
As I learn from you,
I guess you learn from me—
although you’re older—and white—
and somewhat more free.

This is my page for English B.

Langston Hughes



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