Traverse City Record-Eagle

December 15, 2013

Lifelines: Two poems for Christmas

Poet Bard

---- — On Christmas Eve a long time ago, mom took us little kids to town for some forgotten reason. We left dad napping in our parents’ bedroom, just off the living room.

Outside, on the way to the car, we heard distant sleigh bells. Mom pointed up, and there was Rudolph’s red nose like Sputnik way up in the starry night sky. Talk about being excited. My sisters and I chattered like elves all the way to town.

An hour later we arrived home. Lo and behold. Santa had already stopped at our house. Our Christmas wishes were all under the tree, and dad was still asleep.

Our wows and yells woke him up. We had a merry old time admiring our presents, and laughing at dad for sleeping through Santa’s visit.

Dad usually cut our Christmas tree along the Michigan Gas Storage pipelines where he worked. He’d bring home these scrawny, pathetic little evergreens. Their branches could hardly hold up the ornaments, but they worked. His skinny trees became our ongoing Christmas joke.

One year dad must have been tardy. Mom and I went Christmas tree hunting out near the ghost town of Park Lake between McBain and Marion, where she’d grown up.

It was early December without any snow. On the east side of the railroad tracks threads of sunlight were shining through grey clouds, and there was a rainbow. That’s where we found our tree, near where the rainbow touched the ground. It stood in a ribbon of light waiting for us. Since then the Christmas tree has always been my favorite part of the holidays.

Years later, after my parents were divorced, I spent my first Christmas in Traverse City.

It was 1974, and I didn’t have any money, so I gave each member of my family a poem. In some ways things haven’t changed much. This year I’m giving all my readers two poems.

Poet Bard Terry Wooten has been performing and conducting writing workshops in schools for 29 years. He is also the creator of Stone Circle, a triple ring of boulders featuring poetry, storytelling and music on his property north of Elk Rapids. Learn more at


Saint Francis Would Be Proud

There was a cashier’s window

at this Christian college,

and winter semester’s tuition was due

before Christmas break.

Just outside the window

on a bulletin board in the hallway,

was a poster about giving

to the needy and homeless people.

The poster was a collage

of sad, color photos

to stress the issue.

The cashier’s window was doing a good business.

Everything was running smoothly,

until one eighteen year old student

had a religious experience

standing in line beside the poster

advertisement for the poor.

He signed over his tuition check,

his parents’ money

and his grandma’s loan,

to the clerk for the homeless;

figuring God would take care of him,

since He always had.

An hysterical mom and dad flew in

and gave a secular sermon

full of capitalistic dogma

to the Dean to the effect

that if the university

was going to encourage such compassion,

it had to accept responsibility

when pure moments

like this happened.

The university reluctantly agreed.

The poor and homeless were left out

in the same old harmony.

Now everything is back on self-center.

The eighteen year old student

is spiritually and academically

focused straight ahead.

But for one sublime afternoon

another human being knew

what it meant

to really mean it.

                             Carol Guy


A Sad Christmas (1951)

On December 10th

my husband Maurice left

on a bus right out of Kalkaska

for basic training and the Korean War.

I was just nineteen

and moved back with my parents.

The first night he was gone,

mother was away

to a meeting,

and I was home with dad.

The TV was showing heavy fighting

in Korea.

Dad was sitting in his chair.

I sat down next to him

on the floor,

and started to cry.

I couldn’t stop,

and let all the pain loose.

Missing him was really hard.

It was a sad Christmas with my parents.

I visited Maurice’s mother

and went to church.

Christmas Eve

I guess to make myself feel better,

I visited a local store,

and bought lots of hamburger and food.

I took it to different homes

of older people

and their families

who didn’t have any money.

I can’t remember their reactions

except they said thank you.

They all knew me

and my situation.