“God rest ye merry, gentlemen
let nothing you dismay….” —18th century carol

Though morning comes again
as grim as gray as dim as
a blank wish to crawl back into bed
and start again some other day,
let nothing you dismay.

The giant plastic manger scene
and holiday inflatables now lie
collapsed all limp upon their lawns
as if a scroogey grinchy neighbor
shot them dead as he drove by

but it was likely just the wind,
so adversarial this time of year,
as weather obeys nothing but itself
regardless of a Santa Claus balloon
or Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer.

Just beyond the window
frost has dangled silver
bangles on a piney tree
and just beyond that…fog
so thick there’s little else to see.

There’s no one here but me
the fog god seems to say…
so rest you gently if not merry;
take a bit of comfort in oblivion,
let nothing you dismay.

58 responses »

  1. ….that woolen blanket of vapor and frosty filigree are part of the symphony of this grand mystery perhaps only The White Goddess and hollyberried Yuletide capture….leading me to hope that on the darkest of the dark nights in ten days time, there’ll be a great log for you to light and contemplative over. Thank you for bringing to us your own personal tréfoire, dear friend.

    • …amazing that you should call it ‘woolen’, because frost always does appear somewhat furry to me, to the amusement of others who find that a weird perception. I should go and take my dog-eared copy of The White Goddess off the shelf for some re-reading. No actual tréfoire here, but also no lack of imagination to bring one home for the solstice, dear Lance. I hope it’s now beautifully wintry where you are, the way you like it.

  2. I gave this, dear Cynthia, an almost reluctant “like”, but I thought it was a fantastic piece of writing. One of the funniest things I’ve ever heard was someone looking out the window on Christmas morning (southern hemisphere) and grumpily observing that “the days seem to be drawing in”. So for you, so soon, “the days will be drawing out”.

    • My neighbor just across the way, has lights all around the eaves of his roof and the windows of his house. On his front lawn is a 15 ft. inflated Frosty the Snowman, a 12 ft. Santa, and a third giant inflatable of some cartoon character—maybe Scooby-doo. They are still lighting up the world, around midnight, when I go to bed. And each morning, when I look out my kitchen window, I see them lying deflated, flat on the ground, as if they are dead. One morning, Mary and Joseph, from another neighbor’s Nativity Scene, were knocked over by the wind (we won’t mention the possible involvement of local teens) and also lay on the ground. The only other Christmas Story I can think of for this year, is how my friend Dick Boucher’s goat, “Uncle Billy,” died and was standing frozen stiff on the cold and frozen ground, so he took and stood it up as part of his local town’s Nativity Scene. I don’t believe him, but then, ‘Tis the season!

    • Those big balloons….either you love them or you hate them. I think small children love them, and people with more sophisticated taste hate them. But I see more of them every year, as it all becomes more commercial and more vulgar. The colored lights, I think, are meant as symbols to dispel the “darkness” of this time of year. I hope you are enjoying the season with your family, Jalal. Thank you for aways fighting the good fight.

      • l appreciate your thoughts,l agree with you about commercializing this joyous season and promoting the wrong idea for the kids. Light of the born savior is the truth they should learn..Hilda and l will spend Christmas week with the our children and their families and the grandchildren.We wish you a blessed season and merry Christmas.Jalal

  3. I think you have just encapsulated the worst of the Northern Hemisphere Christmas experience – it is hard anywhere if you feel alone and joyless in yourself as so many will attest, but here at least we do not lack the physical, emotional and spiritual comfort of daylight and sunlight and warmth on our faces………… I find myself, a little as Bruce has just mentioned, watching the daylight hours closely knowing that soon they will peak and begin the slide downhill again. Silly isn’t it, when I know well enough I should simply be enjoying each long day for itself and spending as much time as possible in my flower packed tiny courtyard or walking the white sandy beaches, ………

    • You’rer right, Pauline, I think the weather has a great deal to do with it—at least for me. I am alone, but that isn’t a problem. (I enjoy my own company 🙂 )

      I always remember the dictum of Hafiz: “Don’t surrender your loneliness so quickly. Let it cut more deep. Let it ferment and season you as few human or even divine ingredients can.”

      You still have a lot of summer left, as we have a lot of winter yet to endure. Once the hoopla of xmas is past, I know I will enjoy hibernation—a good time for reading’ and writing’. As for you, please do luxuriate in your lovely secret garden and your walks by the sea!

      • I am a hermit by nature Cynthia and I have also lived the words of Hafiz on my journey. I still spend a great deal of my time alone and am unbelievably grateful and happy that it is this way. Although I value my solitude I do know that Christmas is a hard time for being alone unless you have specifically chosen it. I have learnt that I prefer to meet myself in silence than to live in the perpetual inanity of phatic communion and frenetic socialisation. There is much to be thankful for in having lived these years and learned about ourselves and life is there not?

        • Beautifully expressed, Pauline, and I agree. I am glad, by chance, not to be the kind of person who needs the “frenetic social.” It becomes harder and harder to have that involvement, as one gets older and is relegated to the sidelines anyway by a society that puts a premium on more and more, louder and louder, faster and faster. (younger and younger, shallower and shallower 🙂 ) I was–distressingly— an old soul when I was young; I have come to understand the four noble truths, and, finally, to be my right age. I am happy to hear you have arrived on a similar shore.

          • It was so hard being old when we were young wasn’t it! I struggled with my youth far more than I struggle with older age. I found after a bit I didn’t mind being sidelined by society as it just proved a) that they don’t know me, nor all I have to offer and b) I get to not have to nursemaid them 🙂 I have found the truth of the spirit staying young even as the body ages and am most content with that 🙂 I just had my hair done and my man put a colour rinse of pink and purple through the front – I would never have done that even a few years ago. I’m going out having a good time!!

            • I am most proud to say my friend is a lady with pink and purple hair.
              I am watching a tv program featuring the life and work of Luciano Pavarotti, this evening. Apparently La Bohème was his all time favorite opera, having launched his career as he performed in it throughout Europe and the USA in the beginning….your Rodolfo hand warmers came to mind…

              • I loved Pav – his voice was just perfection! I never saw him live, though once I nearly did – he did an outdoor concert in Hyde Park and I got sick a couple of days before….. But I watched many of his recorded performances and once had a library of his recordings. As he got larger and less capable of singing and moving at the same time they would place him centre stage and have everyone move around him – it made for some interesting viewing. [I used to watch televised operas on a Sunday afternoon as my treat for having completed my school work for the week.] I haven’t seen anything about him for years. And you have reminded me, I must put some Rodolfo hand warmers into my little shop…..

  4. Season’s greetings, Cynthia.

    These Christmas carols make for wonderful mondegreens:

    “God rest ye merry, gentlemen
    let nothing be in the ashtray…”

    “God rest ye merry, gentlemen
    let notaries be lead astray…”

    “God rest ye merry, gentlemen
    I’ve lost my hearing to this day…”

    • Okay, so now that i’ve stopped laughing so hard, I can wipe my eyes and blow my nose and say thank you, Prospero for your usual spirit booster.

      I am also returning your lovely “season’s greetings,” assuming you mean the season of advent (which, to me, is one of apprehension) or the season of dread-into-joy, which is that of the solstice.

      Actually, it’s the season of Hanukkah just now. And in the mondegreen spirit I should just say to you : Háva Nagila! (have two, they’re small.)

      • I’m not that picky about the season. Pick one and I will with bonhomie send greetings.

        O pounding of comfort and poi (that’s my Hawaiian mondegreen, applicable to all seasons, though grass skirts may be required).

  5. Ah, Cynthia, you’ve received much cheer for this poem, as well it should be. It reminded me of a poem by Derek Mahon called A Tolerable Wisdom. Not because the poems are alike, but because a deserted amusement park is mentioned in one line. And there it is. The magic of the amusement park needs bright lights and dark surroundings. In daylight it just looks a bit tired or even tawdry. True with the Christmas decorations, deflated in daylight or just a bit scraped up. We could take off from there on our symbols and interior light and go who knows where…

    • Thank you, and that’s a most interesting insight, Lisa, about bright lights in the darkness giving a certain magic to fantasy. I remember thinking about that when I was once in Las Vegas, sensing the great difference in feeling by day and by night. It seems the same with theatre, which mostly happens at night…..I know we have matinées but even then, the house is dark when the play goes up. (If you have ever been backstage, you know just how tawdry it can be, when not in the bright lights performed for a darkened audience.) Our symbols make an interesting topic, as they grow further and further away from what may have originally prompted them.

      • Yes, the stage is the same way–magic, but then daylight. Perhaps we can only hold the magic for a certain time. Hmm. I’m testing it tonight, getting out some of the Christmas decorations. Some are quite old and look it, but retain their magic somehow.

        • Oh yes, those oldest ornaments have a great deal of energy—something like the power of “baraka” that objects may possess—and of course many have sentimental value. I still have in my possession some tree ornaments of a very delicate, thin glass, from the time of WWI and WWII that were handed down, and I live in fear of breaking them. Then there are all the awkward ones made by children in the family over the many years, and those that were gifts from cherished friends now dead….

  6. Love the finale, Cynthia, and I’m good with ‘comfort in oblivion’ too. You still might want to keep an eye on that ‘ scroogey, grinchy neighbor’ lol

  7. I hear the sigh through your words, but enjoyed the imagery you presented all the same. Always fun listening to your voice, you know just how to get the laugh, the ah, the reaction, and the oh yes those inflatable characters (I have a strong dislike of every one of them). Like you mentioned above, the quietness and meaning of the season has gone so far over the edge of commercialism and vulgar, I agree and it’s too bad.

    I love the twinkling lights, they are like diamonds floating in the sky shining through the fog.

    • I googled holiday inflatables just out of curiosity and actually watched the full instructions for how to install them on your lawn. The one in the video was a giant Turkey balloon for Thanksgiving display. I do laugh when I see them all collapsed in the morning…like victims of a drive-by shooting. But there they are, tonight, all blown up and resurrected! I hope there are lots of twinkling lights in your vicinity; it’s not been the easiest year for you, but we can hope for good things in the new one.

      • And now we also have laser light shows outside residences around here – they are fascinating to watch.

        Thank you for your kind words, unfortunately another passing during Thanksgiving week my husband sister passed unexpectedly, it was like a one-two punch. We are managing, and ready for the calendar to turn to a new year.

        Just finished raking 30 bags of leaves this week – the leaves have finally decided to give way, love physical labor nothing like a good workout and mindless activity. Have a beautiful weekend –

        • I’m sorry to hear about another death in the family, Mary. I’ve known that kind of punch-when-you’re-down kind of thing, too. And when it happens around holidays, it seems even more poignant. Take care. Be gentle. Take it out on the rake and the leaves! ❤

          • Thank you my friend. We are doing much better and getting back to a normal routine. Today I’ll decorate the Christmas tree, a little late but will be the bright light to enjoy ~

  8. Let nothing you dismay is a beautiful line, beautifully used, so that we can hear and understand it anew.
    A friend to whom I gave your book of poems and who had already made happy noises, recently emailed under the subject ‘Getting It’: I just read (or rather re-read) this poem by Cynthia Jobin, in the book you gave me. So wonderful.
    Now back to today’s chores… but I wanted to thank you again for this treat.

    • There are some temptingly beautiful lines in the traditional Christmas carols; this one kept turning in the mind and on the tongue….that’s usually when I know I should take it somewhere.

      I’m so happy to hear your friend liked the book, and that poem especially. There’s an amazing story behind the dedication of that one to a particular person—the same person to whom the book is dedicated—and it’s very gratifying to hear that it resonates for others. And, as an author in your own right, you know how such a report can brighten the day and warm the cockles. Thanks so much, Hilary. Take it easy, with the “chores.”

  9. Hi Cynthia, I like the melancholy humour in this one. It’s a drizzly grey morning here in Wales, yet jackdaws call happily from the chimneypots. Even in yesterday’s gale there was a goodly gush of Christmas cheer as we hurried around the shops! Best, though, was the mid-winter procession in Chester the other night, led by a samba band with devils and angels, a fire-eater and a swooping 10-foot raven following, giant skeletons bringing up the rear. It was all good, gruesome, madly cavorting fun. Amazed, I was; but dismayed – definitely not!

    With very best festive wishes,


    • How I would love to witness something like that mid-winter procession in Chester right about now! In my romantic imagination, Wales is the center of the universe for poets, so I do envy your being there. I also hope that your recent health scare is no longer anything to be too worried about. As for festive wishes I must wish you back your own wonderful phrase of “a goodly gush of Christmas cheer”!

  10. Marvelous how you took that line we’ve heard hundreds and hundreds of times before and made it new. I was just re-reading “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” and admiring the rhythm and then I came here and find this too has a beautiful pace that alters between quick and slow when you throw in a long word like “adversarial”.

    • “Adversarial,” doesn’t seem like a very poetic word, but sometimes a really dry, abstract term can take on new life if you toss it into a an imagistic stew.

      I love “A Child’s Christmas in Wales.” At one time, I owned a recording of Dylan Thomas himself reading it, and of course that was a treat. He was at his best when writing about childhood, or regretting the loss of youth and sensual life …..such an immature man, so brilliantly gifted with word magic….so I still read and admire his work, not so much for what it says, but for the way it pictures nature, and trips along the tongue.

  11. I enjoyed this poem’s imagery and especially the lines:
    “frost has dangled silver
    bangles on a piney tree’
    although I keep reading the second line as “upon” rather than “on”
    Austin got a light frost last week followed by rain; these two events gave us our Fall, so now the leaves are on the ground or swirling around the neighborhood front yard inflatables. Personally, I find them all ugly so I try to live the lines “let nothing you dismay” and not be scroogey.

    • Big smile here, Jane….”upon a piney tree” is more alliterative, isn’t it, with the two “p” sounds!?Maybe I’ll change it, the next time I type it, before I print it. (I once attended a poetry reading in Harvard Square, by the poet Alan Duggan who had a pencil in hand and was changing something in one of his poems as he read it….from a hardbound published copy!) So we are never sure we have the final solution, I guess.

      The way those inflatables play dead in the morning only to come back to life at night is comical enough for me to get a tad of fun out of the ugliness of them. They seem ubiquitous these days. I wonder if they will become passé at some point…..but who knows what new fad might replace them?

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