December 5, 2012


(For the last 6 years or so we, the members of the Albany peace community at the peace vigil in front of the State Capitol building, have been handing out a flyer with an excerpt of Enid Dame's "Holiday Poem" on the Wednesday vigil closest to Christmas.  This is the text of the complete poem.)

Make your own holiday, I want to say
forget the scolding billboards      the feverish malls
the glittering tinsel      the hard and soft machines      the guilt.
Forget Santa Claus in his red suit
(it was blue in Yugoslavia,
a country that has fallen off the map).
Forget the gross national product forget      Wall Street      the rising market.
Make your own bread rise in your oven.
Make up new recipes.

Make your own candles, I want to exhort.
Make those bees work overtime!
The past glimmers seductively     that happy safe radiant place
where snow wrapped the village in angelhair
and Grandma’s cranberries winked like rubies.
They own it now    the conglomerates     the CEOs     the dream dealers.
They sell it back to us in bits and pieces.

They’ve downsized our fantasies.
They want us all wrapped snugly in electric blankets
dreaming the same-colored dream
while the locked-out people, who can’t afford dreams,
play with matches down the street.

Perhaps I shouldn’t say a word.
I’m a stranger in this culture.
In the milltown, the stores dazzled us each December.
Red electric bells sang on every corner.
Mothers and neighbors swung through the streets
gathering, gathering
Lionel trains     toasters     perfume     doll furniture     bedroom suites.
(My father the radical worked overtime
offering, offering
smiling, accepting greetings for a day he had no part in,
coming home exhausted after all the bells winked out.
We lit small candles     made pancakes     hung stockings
Santa Claus, my mother allowed     but no Christ child     no pagan tree.
We weren’t extremists.)

My mother the 30s radical
trapped in the 50s in a house too small
for all her talents – even her talent for sorrow –
told me, “Don’t buy me a holiday card.
Why make the card company richer?”
I thought of making my own     pulled out paints
too messy     too lazy     too undextrous     I grew discouraged
Hallmark could do it better! I
gave nothing at all those years.

But this year, in the diminishing ‘90s
when all the old hopeful flames have guttered out,
as the century melts down like a candle to a small hard nub,
when too many of us are locked out of our stories
in this dark cold overworked tunnel of time,
I want to give something back to the universe:

I want to be politically correct
(or incorrect, depending upon your viewpoint).

I want to say, Let’s make a feast,
a feast of candles     a feast of languages
Let’s celebrate each other’s Gods
(and dreams and histories). Let’s sit down and listen.
Let’s do Christmas     Hanukah     Kwanzaa     solstice
Let’s invite Buddhists     Muslims     Hindus     secular humanists     anarchists     Gnostics.
Late December is a needy time. But
we don’t need the solace of bought objects.
We need each other’s light.

Enid Dame (1943 – 2003) was a poet, writer and teacher. She was born in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania and lived for many years in Brooklyn and High Falls, New York. Her books include Anything You Don’t See (1992, West End Press), Stone Shekhina (2002, Three Mile Harbor), and Where is the Woman? Letters and Poems from California (2006, Shivastan Publishing), edited by her husband, Donald Lev. Enid & Donald co-edited the literary tabloid Home Planet News. Enid Dame died on Christmas morning 2003.

1 comment:

Cynthia said...

Thank you Dan..we need each other's light!!