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Sunday, 25 December 2011

James Schuyler: December


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http://memory.loc.gov/service/pnp/fsa/8a34000/8a34900/8a34929v.jpg

Hanging Christmas decorations in Providence, Rhode island: photo by Jack Delano, December 1940


........................................................................Il va neiger dans quelques jours

........................................................................FRANCIS JAMMES


The giant Norway spruce from Podunk, its lower branches bound,
this morning was reared into place at Rockefeller Center.
I thought I saw a cold blue dusty light sough in its boughs
the way other years the wind thrashing at the giant ornaments
recalled other years and Christmas trees more homey.
Each December! I always think I hate “the over-commercialized event”
and then bells ring, or tiny light bulbs wink above the entrance
to Bonwit Teller or Katherine going on five wants to look at all
the empty sample gift-wrapped boxes up Fifth Avenue in swank shops
and how can I help falling in love? A calm secret exultation
of the spirit that tastes like Sealtest eggnog, made from milk solids,
Vanillin, artificial rum flavoring; a milky impulse to kiss and be friends
It’s like what George and I were talking about, the East West
Coast divide: Californians need to do a thing to enjoy it.
A smile in the street may be loads! you don’t have to undress everybody.
..................................“You didn’t visit the Alps?”
..................................“No, but I saw from the train they were black
..................................and streaked with snow.”
Having and giving but also catching glimpses
hints that are revelations: to have been so happy is a promise
and if it isn’t kept that doesn’t matter. It may snow
falling softly on lashes of eyes you love and a cold cheek
grow warm next to your own in hushed dark familial December.


James Schuyler: December, from May 24th or So, 1966




http://memory.loc.gov/service/pnp/cph/3c30000/3c30000/3c30600/3c30627v.jpg

Ice skating in Rockefeller Center, New York, New York
: photo by John Collier, December 1941


Photos from Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Collection, Library of Congress

8 comments:

vazambam said...

Oh, so disarmingly innocent
moment frozen

in time, what is that
unmoving,unmoved warden doing

smack-dab in your center?

TC said...

Vassilis,

Yes, is he not the shadow of some other world of Iron (and not intentionally made, in any way, ironic, in the photo, at that) infiltrating this charming Icy Pastoral?

He does on the one hand seem harmless enough, just doing his job, yet exactly why must he be there?

By the time of those skating shots, as I'm sure you have made out, the POV of the photographers was already being steered -- or at any rate subtly veering -- back toward the "national values" -- readymade ideological patriotisms, attendant sentimentalities & c. -- the symbols of the somewhat puffed up historical vitality of the after all at that point not so very old homeland, with its stern figures of authority. There was, to be sure, by this time, a war going on. Somewhere. In fact I can almost remember that one.

Though even so, that warden -- 'tis hard to imagine the need, really. Rockefeller Center was not Sing Sing.

Nin Andrews said...

I love the ambivalence in these recent posts. It's always a hard time of year for so many, a time of many mixed emotions

TC said...

Nin, yes, odd, this contagion of intense holiday ambivalence. Do you suppose things could have been like this in the early days of the great European plagues, as the Black Death & c. swept across the landmass like a gang of berserk inside traders on a short-selling rampage??

ACravan said...

I can't imagine what it must have been like living through the various plagues I'm not living through now, but this poem and these pictures actually find me non-ambivalent for a change. I'm not particularly nostalgic on most occasions, but these prompt very specific memories of the Manhattan of my youth when the city had great, great charm for me. Thank you. Oh -- the rink was always sort of a nightmare -- better to be viewed, I think, than for skating. Curtis

STEPHEN RATCLIFFE said...

Tom,

Having and giving but also catching glimpses . . .

Christmas Love to you & A from Steve & Johnny

12.25

red orange of clouds in sky above still
shadowed ridge, red-tailed hawk calling
in foreground, wave sounding in channel

A’ and A” as such, identify
other possible amount

to come, being since turned
out, went for nothing

bright orange of sun rising above ridge,
white cloud in pale blue sky on horizon

TC said...

Curtis & Steve (and Johnny),

We send you both (& all) love & gratitude for providing warmth & light to so many otherwise cold & dark mornings this year here in the ancient unheated haunted house.

(And the cats send their noncommittal regards as well, from within their comma-shaped piles of furry unimaginable dreaming.)

aditya said...

Tom

Hope you are enjoying the festive season.
Ambivalence as Nin says is a luxury in itself.


where do you think i’ve got to? the spectacle of a grown man decorating a christmas tree disgusts me that’s where

frank o’hara