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Reflections of a working writer and reader

 

 

Christmas Eve

STILLE NACHT

On the night
that I was born,
the bells rang out
across the world.

In Coventry, in Dresden,
the cathedral bones sheltered
worshippers with candles,
witnessing the ruins.

In Auschwitz-Birkenau,
the story goes,
the death’s-head guards
sang, “Stille nacht,

heilige nacht”. Their voices
slid across the Polish snow.
The sweetest tenor was Ukrainian,
the man they called Peter the Silent.

He never spoke and he killed
with a lead-filled stick.
In the Union Factory, packing shells,
they dreamed of Moses.

**

In Horton Kirby, fields froze
and ice deadlocked the lanes.
My father rose in the cold
blue-before-dawn light

and cycled sideways,
wreathed in silver mist,
to the hospital. Each turn
of the track betrayed him

and scarred by thorns and gravel,
he bled by our bedside.
My mother laughed, she remembers,
as the nurse administered.

“Been in the wars?” she asked.
Outside, across the Weald,
from out of a cloudless dawn
the buzz bombs crumpled London.

**

Outside a town in the Ardennes
Private Taunitz hung
like a crippled kite
high in a tree.

A cruciform against the sky,
he seemed to run forever
through the branches,
running home for the new year.

Outside Budapest three men
diced for roubles
in the shelter of a tank.
Fitful rain, a moonless night.

Sasha struck a match
across the red star
on his helmet, the red star
that led them to this place.

Extra vodka, extra cigarettes,
a rabbit stewed,
the tolling of artillery
to celebrate the day.

**

The blackouts drawn,
December light invaded.
We awoke, slapped hard
by the early world.

Our siren voices
climbed into the morning,
a choir of outrage,
insect-thin but passionate.

Through tears our parents
smiled: within the song
of our despair they heard
a different tune.

And as our voices
sucked the air, swallowing
the grumble of the bombs,
only the bells survived.

Dick Jones

Stille Nacht is copyright © Dick Jones. It was published on his own Dick Jones’ Patteran Pages and is reproduced here with the author’s permission.

2 Responses to “Christmas Eve”

  1. Steve Clackson says:

    Wonderful piece thanks John I was not familiar with Jones’s work.
    Merry Christmas!

    jb says: Patteran Pages is a site to watch. Happy Holiday, Steve.

  2. bloglily says:

    That’s a really fine poem. (Much better than the jolly Wordsworth I posted on my blog pre-Christmas!) Like the Rumi you posted earlier, it’s the sort of poem that gives you some trouble — which is what a good poem should do. Thanks John, and a very Happy New Year to you.

    jb says: Dick Jones will be happy to hear you liked his poem, and also that it gave you some trouble. I loved the way that Christmas was inter-layered with the images of violence in such a way that neither of them lost their power. Happy New Year to you, too, Bloglily.