A Missed Opportunity, and the Poem That Happened Instead–“Taking the Tree Down in Late January”

Though I had heard something about the Women’s March being scheduled for sometime after the Inauguration, I had not watched much of the procession, or the following news forecasts, and so missed the crucial information that the marches all around the country were to be today (January 21).  Because I don’t have quick and easy access to travel, I would’ve been frustrated by an attempt to get to the scene of the action nearby as well.  I spent the day in some frustration, trying to get around to various household chores which needed to be done, and which I have little appetite for doing.  Imagine my surprise when, after successfully taking down the holiday tree and writing a poem about it which I produce here, I turned on the evening new to find that the marches had happened all over the world today!  This made me feel that I should have spent the time writing something intelligent about the transfer of power which has just taken place in our country, though I have been so aghast at the way things have gone, that I really have felt wordless about it, except for the two references to it which occur in my recent poem about Martin Luther King Day a few days back.  With so many people doing so much to express their resistance and unwillingness to be bullied into wrong-headed politics and social views that are truly appalling, I don’t know what more I could say that would be in any way more conclusive; I support them 100%, though, in their peaceful expression of dislike for the new ruling powers that be.  That being said, I can only produce what I actually have done today, by way of indicating that when and if I have anything to say that would really be useful, I will be willing to exert myself to say it.  This is the poem I wrote today, very topical but not political:

Taking the Tree Down in Late January

The tree came down today.
It's an artificial one, of course,
No need to make a fuss
And after all we like to think
Of real trees left to grow
And prosper, without us there
To cut or even see them.
In the old days,
Grandmothers and grandfathers
Hurried to take them down
Before the New Year's celebration
Was quite over,
Because, of course, it was bad luck
To leave the Christmas tree or
The Hannukah bush
Or the Solstice branch
Up past the darkest time of year.
Could it have prolonged
The darkness, did they think?
Or was it rather the too long life
Of festivities,
Untoward and improper,
That they feared?
But never mind,
We have decided that it's worse luck
To make a big to-do
And give bad luck its name,
And so we ignore it,
And take the tree down
When we feel up to it,
Take it apart and store it in its box
Until next year.
There is some difficulty, after all,
In handling with a dismissive hand
The ornaments and pretties
That we put on it so joyously
A few short weeks ago;
Even the cat is perplexed
By its absence, and no glass balls to bat,
As she had gotten rather used
To skulking for her games and leaps
Under the boughs as if they had been real
To her too, for she condescended
To nibble at the artificial greenery
Once or twice,
Her memory of the real thing
Perhaps imperfect,
Since she never goes outside.
It's only after we take it down
That we discover the reason
It listed so to one side the whole time:
A screw was loose in the bottom disk,
And it was flawed construction,
Like so much else we have accepted,
The tree flaunts forth our mood
In damaged echoes,
Which we accept for good faith
When we are in joyous train,
But discard and have done with
As if in shamed recognition
At foolishness, long or short,
After its days are over.
People talk of the long dearth
Of happiness and light
In the two months before March,
Even though they may sometimes
See the sun shine:
It's not real, not until we reach
Another season's holidays,
For the evergreen notion
Has ruined us for irony,
In which we might appreciate
That "ever green," even that,
Is an approximation,
An exaggeration,
Something false that we pass for true.
In our longing for something perfect,
Engaging in the fraudulent facsimile
Of suffering about the weather
(Though we often play in it, too)
We spend our shivering winter days,
Awaiting Passover, the Spring equinox,
Easter, or any such reason
To make latkes, exchange greenery,
Or color eggs with friends,
Reasons that make the new sunshine
Perfect, until it can stand on its own two feet
Like a gusty, lusty god in an old calendar,
As a joy in its own right, and divide the year
For us, thus bringing 'round
The long and repeated patterns
Of our days
(Which as far as we can see,
Are neither fraudulent nor imperfect,
Though we may wish we had them
Longer still).
Until next early winter, then,
Thou, tree,
Adorn the box inside which you are placed
As if it were a right true honored tomb,
That love and memory alike have graced!

©Victoria Leigh Bennett, 1/21/17

May all of those who chose to be out protesting for the Women’s March today in the winter weather, which was unseasonably warm and gentle in some places, and predictably uncomfortable in others, find their ways safely home without trouble (as I found out, several other groups of citizens including people of color and disabled people and others likely to suffer under the upcoming despotism were also out in force as well).  And may my spate of philosophical endeavor brought on by a fake holiday tree not seem too terribly out of place–it was, after all, my own way of being engagé today, merely to fight to have a poem written when I felt so out-of-sorts about how things have gone.  Shadowoperator



Filed under Poetry and its forms and meanings, What is literature for?

2 responses to “A Missed Opportunity, and the Poem That Happened Instead–“Taking the Tree Down in Late January”

  1. This year I just had a tiny tree as it was much too buy to make an effort and when it came time to take tt down, I laid it on its side,…no fuss with me.

    It is good to see that people are coming together because of this ridiculous new president. It takes adversity to bring people together and you can’t much more adverse than that!

  2. The announcement about the Women’s Marches all over the country were apparently on the news just after the coverage of the Inauguration, so I missed it, because I just watched the swearing-in and the bit of the parade where he got out and walked (I couldn’t believe he had the nerve to do either one, with so many people against him). After the marches, he apparently asked why all those people didn’t vote, as if he didn’t understand that it was the traitorous Electoral College that put him into office and not the popular vote!

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