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Two poems for Christmas by Joseph O’Brien

White Christmas and Uncle Paul’s Pear Tree

White Christmas

  • Forecasters generally consider a white Christmas
  • to be an inch of snow on the ground
  • or an inch falling that day.
  • -News Item
  • But along the river bottoms, snow found no place,
  • When together we went walking there
  • After life fell apart.
  • Your flustered hands gently wrestled
  • With the chill in the folds of your overcoat.
  • Frightened doves, they could not bear to be held,
  • Holding to themselves
  • In a barren nest untouched by tenderness,
  • Yet wanting to fly from flesh to flesh
  • In a birth of unmolested whiteness.
  • I knew you as one who lived in minor chords and
  • Your falling apart was only the latest note,
  • Inescapable as the ache that comes with snowfall
  • Disintegrating a forest’s edge in a flurry of silence,
  • The nudging ache that waits forever.
  • And I knew your latest sorrow,
  • Like the winter twilight in your eyes, always
  • Tinctured by stars and snow.
  • Setting your hopes on a white Christmas,
  • You put a quiet faith in the world’s poor weather,
  • And stood to hear nervous cattails
  • Tapping at the river’s crusted edge—
  • There, you scanned the overcast skies with eyes
  • Dark, damp, beautiful as a forest floor—
  • Always an inch away from drowning in joy.
  • Uncle Paul’s Pear Tree
  • Uncle Paul played the hunter each Christmas –
  • Out among the frozen hills with gun in hand,
  • “It takes more than blood-thirst to hunt, I guess,”
  • He’d say. “You have to know what’s on your land.”
  • He’d come back, a bird in bag and listless
  • To tell a tale. He’d fumble words in his head,
  • Then begin: “Today was miraculous…”
  • He’d wandered around the land of the dead
  • With light snow from last night as the world’s pall.
  • He’d heard a crow sing for mercy on the ridge,
  • And in an old pear tree he’d found his soul.
  • “Like Saul for David, I chased that partridge…
  • That pear tree always drops an early fruit,
  • Yet each year it gives me a bird to shoot.”
Joseph O’Brien

Joseph O’Brien is the poetry editor for the San Diego Reader.

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Mustard turns hillsides yellow, Star Jasmine’s sweet perfume

Pleiades cluster hovers right below the waxing crescent moon

White Christmas

  • Forecasters generally consider a white Christmas
  • to be an inch of snow on the ground
  • or an inch falling that day.
  • -News Item
  • But along the river bottoms, snow found no place,
  • When together we went walking there
  • After life fell apart.
  • Your flustered hands gently wrestled
  • With the chill in the folds of your overcoat.
  • Frightened doves, they could not bear to be held,
  • Holding to themselves
  • In a barren nest untouched by tenderness,
  • Yet wanting to fly from flesh to flesh
  • In a birth of unmolested whiteness.
  • I knew you as one who lived in minor chords and
  • Your falling apart was only the latest note,
  • Inescapable as the ache that comes with snowfall
  • Disintegrating a forest’s edge in a flurry of silence,
  • The nudging ache that waits forever.
  • And I knew your latest sorrow,
  • Like the winter twilight in your eyes, always
  • Tinctured by stars and snow.
  • Setting your hopes on a white Christmas,
  • You put a quiet faith in the world’s poor weather,
  • And stood to hear nervous cattails
  • Tapping at the river’s crusted edge—
  • There, you scanned the overcast skies with eyes
  • Dark, damp, beautiful as a forest floor—
  • Always an inch away from drowning in joy.
  • Uncle Paul’s Pear Tree
  • Uncle Paul played the hunter each Christmas –
  • Out among the frozen hills with gun in hand,
  • “It takes more than blood-thirst to hunt, I guess,”
  • He’d say. “You have to know what’s on your land.”
  • He’d come back, a bird in bag and listless
  • To tell a tale. He’d fumble words in his head,
  • Then begin: “Today was miraculous…”
  • He’d wandered around the land of the dead
  • With light snow from last night as the world’s pall.
  • He’d heard a crow sing for mercy on the ridge,
  • And in an old pear tree he’d found his soul.
  • “Like Saul for David, I chased that partridge…
  • That pear tree always drops an early fruit,
  • Yet each year it gives me a bird to shoot.”
Joseph O’Brien

Joseph O’Brien is the poetry editor for the San Diego Reader.

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Sponsored
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