Ken Waldman's Holiday Show
Ken Waldman agrees: he ought to be doing more December shows.
Like his roots music variety shows, he brings a troupe of artists that fit an organization's vision and budget. The difference is Ken highlights the season with his stories and poems. And whether he adds a group like the Bond Street Euterpean Singing Society for a short set of carols (and a grand finale sing-along), or musicians like Mark Roberts & Andrea Cooper (husband and wife flute players and banjo players who are master Irish and Appalachian-style old-time musicians), or others who fit the spirit, Ken Waldman shares his original poems, like the ones below.
The Ides of December
Ahead, we see solstice, Christmas, New Year's.
Behind, all those leaves, the colors, the fall.
Winter again, so we reflect on big and small,
on distant crazy longshot pursuits, on recent near
misses. The world's exactly as we fear
and as we dream. Fickle stuff. We recall
triumphs, losses, those slow painful crawls
up those steep metaphoric hills, a beer
or cup of tea with a friend. Why do
we so often forget that season depends
on hemisphere? In Auckland or Rio
we'd be approaching summer. How we tend
to ignore the obvious: it's not just us
North Americans. Here's a wish: global trust.
When the short days feel
nothing's left of fall. When
the dark entry of winter makes
each of us shrink. When
relatives finally call.
Some of us burrow. Some
of us bake. Some of us
leave the year behind.
Some of us take. Some of us
travel into the cold,
ice, and snow--the moon's
crescent reminding us to go
easy. We've been here before.
The Christmas Eve Waltz
for Pete, his friends, and you
Here where winter is wintrier,
the way to stay sane is to make
each day from October to April
whole. That means attending
the stove, sitting for meals, feeding
the hound, and thanking the world
for this snug log home in the midst
of so much chill. Christmas Eve
blesses its simple good fortune.
Christmas arrives the moment
friends call, write, or visit.
Anchorage, December 25, 3 P.M.
In sinking afternoon light,
the unattached spirits gather.
Some come as snowflakes,
others as bits of sky, cloud,
or pieces of hard dirt asleep
under ice. Others as moose,
owl, raven, lynx. it's getting dark--
this winter day so ordinary,
windless, and perfect--when a single
warm breeze from above
blows gentle, strong, miraculous
as a wave. Or a glance. Or a smile.
That's all it takes now
for a whole outer world
to shift ever so slightly--
and for this latest season
to enter, or exit, this earth.
Has it already been six years, the show
north of Tahoe, a husky gentleman
with white hair, flowing beard, who mentioned
backstage he'd found me to say hello
since he'd changed driver's license--which was no
small thing--and credit cards. He said it again
so I'd get the point. I watched the man
dig in his wallet, do a quick jig, go
prove to me, yes, he'd indeed changed his name
to Santa Claus. He declared to some fame
thereabouts. I thought to a Quaker friend
in Fairbanks--white hair, big beard, musician
who claimed holidays were for amateurs.
Me, I just note who picks fights, who plants flowers.
December 26, Shishmaref
Yesterday, Christmas. Today, blizzard.
You worry, angel, Uncle Matthew won't like
the ivory seal because one eye's cracked,
and Aunt Irma the fancy stoneware crockpot,
the catalog order from Utah. You worry
cousin Isaac will take the next plane to Nome
for a drunk, and cousin Shirley, the flirt,
will get pregnant again. You even worry
I won't cherish my new gold-handled knife.
Angel, let's not argue. All this worry
is bad exercise--leave it for people
unsure of their ways. Let's be thankful
for our house, our food, this village life.
Let's be thankful our love grows like grass
and has power over the air. Everything
has been provided. We need nothing more.
Today, blizzard.Time for patience.
Tomorrow, less wind, a settling into light.
Once again, orphan week of December,
the six short days from Christmas to New Year's.
Perhaps a long look back to see just where
we've been. What did we do in September,
the early chill of fall? And remember
April, the lengthening light? Did we hear
good news or bad? Are we any nearer
our goals (have we reached the correct number)?
It's our orphan week, too, to look ahead,
redeem dreams, solve the relentless future
through hope and list. What's yours? Be a blessed
partner, parent? Live more simply instead?
Perhaps, like me, it's to spurn calendar
and clock, make each speck not better, but best.
A fresh calendar, another beginning,
and so we awake--neither early
nor late--with polished hopes, new eyes to see
our ever-changing drama unfolding.
We're perfect babies, able to hum, sing,
coo. We might cook bok choy, ginger, snow pea
stir fries, or collards and beans that serve fifty.
We can do what we dream. Yes, anything
is possible for at least this one week,
this month, this season. We can quit work, sneak
to Cabo, Tokyo, Singapore, Rome.
We can vow to make a much better home
of a world that asks so many questions.
What's next? The year's first answer: it depends.