Tuesday

Dec. 25, 2007

Brothers Playing Catch on Christmas Day

by Gary Short

TUESDAY, 25 DECEMBER, 2007
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Poem: "Brothers Playing Catch on Christmas Day" by Gary Short, from 10 Moons and 13 Horses. © University of Nevada Press, 2004. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

Brothers Playing Catch on Christmas Day

Only a little light remains.
The new football feels heavy
and our throws are awkward
like the conversation of brothers
who see each other occasionally.
After a few exchanges,
confidence grows,
the passing and catching
feels natural and good.
Gradually, we move farther apart,
out in the field,
the space between us
filling with darkness.

He leads me,
lofting perfect spirals
into the night. My eyes
find the clean white laces of the ball.
I let fly a deep pass
to his silhouette.
The return throw
cannot be seen,
yet the ball
falls into my hands, as if
we have established a code
that only brothers know.

Literary and Historical Notes:

In Little Women, Louisa May Alcott (books by this author) writes of the March family's hardships at Christmas time: the girls are too poor to buy presents for each other and their father is off at war. Their spirits are brightened, though, when they receive a letter from their father and read it together around the fireplace. The girls find more joyfulness when they give up their Christmas breakfast to share it with a nearby family of poor immigrant children whose mother had just given birth.

In James Joyce's Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man, the novel's hero, Stephen Dedalus, has come home from boarding school for the winter holidays and he is excited because for the first time in his life, he is sitting at the adult table for the Christmas dinner. The joy of the occasion diminishes, however, when an argument erupts over the Irish Nationalist Leader Charles Parnell and the role of politics in the Catholic Church. Stephen's old nurse, Dante, proclaims that Parnell was a public sinner and not fit to lead a nation. Stephen's father and his friend defend Parnell and insist that it was the Catholic Church's betrayal of Parnell that caused Ireland's lost chance for independence. Stephens's mother pleads with exasperation, "For pity's sake let us have no political discussion on this day of all days in the year."

Dylan Thomas (books by this author) in his "A Child's Christmas in Wales," writes about Christmas Day. It was always snowing, "white as Lapland, though there were no reindeers. But there were cats. Patient, cold and callous, our hands wrapped in socks, we waited to snowball the cats...We were so still, Eskimo-footed arctic marksmen in the muffling silence of the eternal snows...that we never heard Mrs. Prothero's first cry from her igloo at the bottom of the garden..."Fire!" cried Mrs. Prothero, and she beat the dinner-gong. And we ran down the garden, with the snowballs in our arms, toward the house; and smoke, indeed, was pouring out of the dining-room, and the gong was bombilating, and Mrs. Prothero was announcing ruin like a town crier in Pompeii. This was better than all the cats in Wales standing on the wall in a row...Something was burning all right; perhaps it was Mr. Prothero, who always slept there after midday dinner with a newspaper over his face. But he was standing in the middle of the room, saying, "A fine Christmas!" and smacking at the smoke with a slipper. "Call the fire brigade," cried Mrs. Prothero as she beat the gong."

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