If I was a musician, it would be dodgy Christmas single time, except this is a festive experiment with a twist. I gave myself a bit a brief to write a poem with all the key Christmas ingedients, but in keeping with the melancholy, social concern of the new book... in a very short space of time. This is what came of it:
IN MEMORY OF REAL CHRISTMAS TREES
Winter skies are redolent in Jade:
the blanketing twilight,
the soft cascade,
the omnipresent artist
brushes oil-paint guiding stars,
or styled by symmetry.
The sparkle of frost in early December
turns hasty footfall into a delicate exercise,
subtle endeavours to remain upright.
Family democracies are unwound, uptight
as figures dress trees in every other window -
curators of haphazard exhibitions for curious strangers,
freed from inhibitions by discount liquor.
Though it should be fairy-lights
and 'Fairytale of New York',
Cruel Melodies play
the solemn stories of Somewhere Else:
the harmony of disparate, wistful hearts
gazing into space on Christmas Eve.
Some with nothing but the mysteries of a brown paper bag,
grimy nails, cracked fingertips.
Some tucked in a nest of plush bedlinen,
a stuffed animal clutched beneath the sleeve.
The table is set for ten.
One place remains empty,
half a pair divided
and garnered with pity,
but we smile and raise a glass all the same
to dedicated festivities in anonymous names
with talk of religion, indulgence, excess;
the memory of a figure in a wine-coloured dress,
hair tied with ribbons;
the memory of forests, singed by fire,
bare branches, black barks,
perched precariously beneath a burning sky.
Words choked, eyes misty
for every lost soul
and all that we're missing.
A muffled voice from another time
lingers with comfort despite waning confidence.
A wheezing old man raises his hands,
says we've all made mistakes,
some things we can't plan,
but if you think for a second
of our last Christmas together,
you'll surely want to make this year the best you can.