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Friday, December 25, 2020


by Mary K O'Melveny

Each time one hears Bing Crosby sing
"White Christmas," the virus has likely
claimed five lives. Last night we listened
to Ella’s version. I always wondered
if each time she sang it she thought
about racial irony or just conjured
up a view of snowy flakes on
the down low, sleigh bells providing
a back beat. I always preferred
the music rife with magical thinking,
chorale harmonies and swelling strings –
"Ave Maria," "The Little Drummer Boy,"
"Do You Hear What I Hear," "O Holy Night."
"We Three Kings," another standout,
spins its tale of faith burning beneath
a diamond sky. Those wise travelers
were my favorites. They radiated
intrigue enveloped by chilled air thick
with scents of cinnamon, clove,
licorice, citron and amber smoke.
Years after my mother died, she returns
whenever I hear "Silent Night." Each
December, we sat in an old Georgetown
church decorated with beeswax candles
and pine garlands, listening to a flute
rendition as delicate as a flock of doves.
This year, everyone’s holidays
are dimmed, as dampened as last night’s
fire ashes. Gravesites multiply
even as frozen vaccines are
borne across state lines like exotic
gifts. As the solstice approaches,
fresh as a miracle, melancholy
pushes against our need for comfort
and joy. We want to sing, to praise
new birth, even as snow falls upon snow.

Mary K O'Melveny is a recently retired labor rights attorney who lives in Washington DC and Woodstock NY.  Her work has appeared in various print and on-line journals. Her first poetry chapbook A Woman of a Certain Age is available from Finishing Line Press. Mary’s poetry collection Merging Star Hypotheses was published by Finishing Line Press in January, 2020.