Christmas is fast approaching, so our Friday Poem this week is a festive one from Tony Curtis, originally published in Letting Go (1983) and again, just recently, in Tony’s new From the Fortunate Isles: New & Selected Poems.
From the Fortunate Isles features poems from ten of Tony’s published collections, as well as a substantial number of new poems. This is a poet whose themes and variations remain consistent: a deep affection for his roots in West Wales, tender attachments to family, a profound interest in the wars of the last century, and an abiding fascination for all art forms, particularly painting and poetry.
The Infants’ Christmas Concert
A moment of hush, held breath –
the fairies and robbers, the soldiers
and dancers are in position
– then the piano begins.
This sounds otherworldly,
each note a drop of water falling distantly.
Angels swallow trumpets,
a robot trips and turtles in his cardboard shell;
the ballerina crumples and cries.
They may not know why, but still
perform for us the pattern of sentiment,
superstition and love: we sigh,
smile, laugh and applaud.
“The Rich Man gave them a bag of gold
and everyone cheered on the day
the church had a new bell.”
The couple are starched in best white –
as the singing swells, they marry
and claim their gold.
It is intensely sad and fleetingly
realises the ghosts of our innocence.
Flashlights – the year’s frozen
for this instant.
Keep that – don’t move – stay there,
stay somewhere like that for ever.
It all builds to The Nativity:
Joseph, Mary and the three glittering Kings
change without age, time after time.
Only the baby Jesus doll remains,
a scarred and worn wooden face held magically
fresh each year in the laundered swaddling.
The audience – parents and children in arms,
grandparents and neighbours, point and giggle,
there’s a glow and, finally, we all sing.
This has worked some sort of renewal,
some sort of an ending.
From the Fortunate Isles: New & Selected Poems is available from our website: £9.99
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