Christmas at Frank's place
I've tended to post Christmas poems on this blog over the years, because it seems to me that even the worst bit of doggerel is preferable to a Youtube clip of Bing Crosby or John Rowles crooning. Back in 2008 there was a protracted and very interesting debate here after I reproduced Kendrick Smithyman's poem 'A Riddle at Christmas' alongside a page from an eighteenth century Muggletonian treatise on astronomy. In 2010 I posted a poem which described, in perhaps unnecessary detail, a dream I had after consuming an immoral amount of turkey and ham at my brother and sister-in-law's place.
Here's something that might just possibly count as another Christmas dream-poem. I know that the lean and sometimes mean Frank Sargeson does poor service for Santas Claus, but, for me at least, his famous garden, with its shapely courgettes and blazing tomatoes, somehow symbolises the lushness and oppression of Auckland in summer, a season that really begins here at Christmas. I've had a couple of minor deadlines to meet lately, but I'm sparing a thought or two for Alex Wild, who is not only trying to polish off a PhD on the sex lives of twentieth century Germans but also attempting to construct the next issue of the long-running, frequently chaotic literary journal brief out of a mass of submissions. I hope Alex made it out of her study for some ham today...
The Hole that Frank Dug
The night before the deadline
I took the books to bed,
arranging them around me
the way a scared boy arrays his teddy bears
to guard against ghosts.
Each time I turned a page I yawned,
devouring the moths
that had lain there like typos.
At three or four o'clock I fell asleep
over a copy of the Collected Short Stories.
In the stippled light of a fifties summer
Frank was carrying a sack of chickenshit
on his back, whistling
as he went. He might have been hauling a boar
out of the bush block
on his uncle's farm.
Frank staggered around a minefield
of spuds and onions,
then emptied his sack
beside the half-finished hole.
He found his spade lying under the beanstalks
like a drunk. He dug.
Half-forgetting my deadline
I crouched behind the beans,
crouched and listened
to the slow phrases
of that gravel-voiced spade.
[Posted by Scott Hamilton]