Early January: Taking Down the Christmas Tree

January 14, 1994|By Clarinda Harriss Raymond

Around Baltimore it's something

we mostly read about: sunlit ice

crusting each tree's tiniest twigs.

It seemed the whole back yard

had been dipped in candy syrup.

We tried to get the glitter

and rattle to settle in our minds:

we thought back to Frost's "Birches,"

shiny husks of seventeen-year locusts,

the tat-tat of fat white knitting needles,

and then it happened:

over the slope-shoulder of the dead tree

we'd propped against the wall

as we struggled to get it downstairs

and out the door -- no "coffin niches"

in these nineteen-forties houses --

we saw, through the landing's east window,

all the naked trees outside alive

with colored lights! Azure, amber,

purple, pink, early sunset's whole

showy prism asizzle in sapphire birds

whistling stars fit to split the wind chill!

ruby cherries with electric pits!

-- and for a dazzled minute we

thought better of the twinkly Mall,

and we packed away our tangled strings

of Christmas lights most carefully,

as if the broken shoebox

with its years-old tissue paper

might go up in flames.

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