This Thing Called Courage

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Dreaming of Bisky/A Childhood Christmas


I've been dreaming quite a bit of Bisky lately, my old dog Biscuit who passed away two years ago this March 29. Odd, that-- and yet maybe it isn't, as he was such an integral part of my life, and we bonded so deeply. A woman of my acquiantance of psychic gifts, or pretentions (depending upon your philosophy) tells me that when I dream of him, he's actually visiting me. That's fine by me. He can visit every night. The above is a picture us at Diana's Baths, a rock formation in Conway, NH. The rocks were rather wet and slippery so I was carrying him part of the way. It was a beautiful fall day as I remember. He wasn't afraid, I babied him-- he wasn't afraid of anything, except thunder, and the vacuum cleaner...

Today's poem is apropos of the season, and is written by one of my favorite poets, Patrick Kavanaugh, an Irish poet who died in 1969. His reputation has increased if anything over time, and today he is considered right up there with Yates and Heaney.
A Christmas Childhood
One side of the potato‑pits was white with frost—
How wonderful that was, how wonderful!
And when we put our ears to the paling‑post
The music that came out was magical.
The light between the ricks of hay and straw
Was a hole in Heaven’s gable. An apple tree
With its December‑glinting fruit we saw —
O you, Eve, were the world that tempted me

To eat the knowledge that grew in clay
And death the germ within it! Now and then
I can remember something of the gay
Garden that was childhood’s. Again

The tracks of cattle to a drinking‑place,
A green stone lying sideways in a ditch
Or any common sight the transfigured face
Of a beauty that the world did not touch.

My father played the melodeon
Outside at our gate;
There were stars in the morning east
And they danced to his music.

Across the wild bogs his melodeon called
To Lennons and Callans.
As I pulled on my trousers in a hurry
I knew some strange thing had happened.

Outside the cow‑house my mother
Made the music of milking;
The light of her stable‑lamp was a star
And the frost of Bethlehem made it twinkle.

A water‑hen screeched in the bog,
Mass‑going feet
Crunched the wafer‑ice on the pot‑holes,
Somebody wistfully twisted the bellows wheel.

My child poet picked out the letters
On the grey stone,
In silver the wonder of a Christmas townland,
The winking glitter of a frosty dawn.

Cassiopeia was over
Cassidy’s hanging hill,
I looked and three whin bushes rode across
The horizon — The Three Wise Kings.

An old man passing said:
“Can’t he make it talk” —
The melodeon. I hid in the doorway
And tightened the belt of my box‑pleated coat.

I nicked six nicks on the door’post
With my penknife’s big blade—
There was a little one for cutting tobacco,
And I was six Christmases of age.

My father played the melodeon,
My mother milked the cows,
And I had a prayer like a white rose pinned
On the Virgin Mary’s blouse.








A Christmas Childhood
One side of the potato‑pits was white with frost—
How wonderful that was, how wonderful!
And when we put our ears to the paling‑post
The music that came out was magical.
The light between the ricks of hay and straw
Was a hole in Heaven’s gable. An apple tree
With its December‑glinting fruit we saw —
O you, Eve, were the world that tempted me

To eat the knowledge that grew in clay
And death the germ within it! Now and then
I can remember something of the gay
Garden that was childhood’s. Again

The tracks of cattle to a drinking‑place,
A green stone lying sideways in a ditch
Or any common sight the transfigured face
Of a beauty that the world did not touch.

My father played the melodeon
Outside at our gate;
There were stars in the morning east
And they danced to his music.

Across the wild bogs his melodeon called
To Lennons and Callans.
As I pulled on my trousers in a hurry
I knew some strange thing had happened.

Outside the cow‑house my mother
Made the music of milking;
The light of her stable‑lamp was a star
And the frost of Bethlehem made it twinkle.

A water‑hen screeched in the bog,
Mass‑going feet
Crunched the wafer‑ice on the pot‑holes,
Somebody wistfully twisted the bellows wheel.

My child poet picked out the letters
On the grey stone,
In silver the wonder of a Christmas townland,
The winking glitter of a frosty dawn.

Cassiopeia was over
Cassidy’s hanging hill,
I looked and three whin bushes rode across
The horizon — The Three Wise Kings.

An old man passing said:
“Can’t he make it talk” —
The melodeon. I hid in the doorway
And tightened the belt of my box‑pleated coat.

I nicked six nicks on the door’post
With my penknife’s big blade—
There was a little one for cutting tobacco,
And I was six Christmases of age.

My father played the melodeon,
My mother milked the cows,
And I had a prayer like a white rose pinned
On the Virgin Mary’s blouse.

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