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  • Writer's pictureLaura McBride

A gift of poetry


Tree festival tree2.jpg

Sorry for the long hiatus. I was busy preparing our Muffin Dog Press tree for the St. Eustachius Christmas Tree Festival in Tavistock, Devon, UK. The festival helps support the ongoing upkeep of an ancient church, and is a lot of fun as well. Our theme this year was “A book, a biscuit and a cup of tea.” And yes, I made all the ornaments, except the star on top. Better photos soon.

Still, Advent is here. Whether you are a Christian or not, there is something to celebrate this time of year, and advent simply means “going toward.” I would like to think I'm going toward a bit more expansion in writing and publishing. And I'd like to begin by expanding my gifts to readers. So, here is the final poem in my recent book of poetry, Cow-Tipping and the Deep Blue Sea (which I recently gave away free for two days on Kindle). The poem happens to be about my hometown, New York City.

Christmas in New York

I

One year, we had no money. Well, not much

money. So I went to the library at Lincoln

Center, a performing arts library, checked out

two or three beautiful albums--vinyl, back then--

wrapped them and gave them to my

husband as a temporary Christmas gift,

along with some other little gifts. It was

OK.

II

Manhattan at Christmas is a feast that costs

nothing, as long as you have a roof over

your head and enough food money. Some years,

the lean first years, we bought clothes

at second-hand shops. But in Manhattan, you

get Brooks Brothers suits for ten bucks. Take

such suits to a tailor, for ten more it will

look handmade for you. You can wear that

swell suit to churches where world-class

music is free, or you can throw a buck in

the basket. You can stop by office towers

at lunchtime all season and hear musical

groups put on by Trumps and suchlike to

entertain the peons working there. For a

couple of bucks, you can have a coffee

in Paley Park, vest pocket hideaway

with food kiosk 50 yards from St. Thomas

Church, three-minutes by foot from the angels

at Rockefeller Center.

III

Angels at Rockefeller Center? Angels.

Blowing trumpets down the evergreen

raised beds leading away from Fifth Avenue to

the skating rink. Old folks twirling there because

they can, young folk falling down

because they can't. And the angel

flying in bronze above it, as it has for all

my lifetime. The music. The smell of hot pretzels,

hot chestnuts, hot dogs.

IV

It's not really an angel, that bronze figure above

the skating rink. It's Prometheus, bringing fire

to mankind.

V

Beautiful, Rock Center. So full of art and

music and shops purveying the best

man can do. Once, there was Corne de la Toison d'Or,

the best chocolate. The Best. But then, it left. Rumour

had it that a family feud killed the Belgian

chocolatier. I don't know. But...well...it's New York.

Other delights took its place. (Well, not really.)

VI

I interviewed for a job once in Rock Center,

in one of the great, grey buildings

holding court plunk in the middle

of Midtown, making a web of all the world

before there was the Web. The AP was where

I went, the Associated Press. I didn't get it; I was

too green. Now I'm too riddled with the

expensive evidence of abundant aging. (Oh,

well.)

So I freelanced. Which allowed me the

Freedom of the City.

Especially at Christmas.

VII

Cheap tickets, aficionado tickets up at the top,

for The Nutcracker. They had to be. It was early days,

and I was usually broke. Hours and hours spent inside

St. Thomas, drinking in the Anglican splendors

of a French Gothic building, quiet but for the rumble

of the No. 7 train far below the stone floors. Beautiful

in its quiet, unworldly splendid when the choir sang

before an altar decked with festal cloths, embroidered

in gold thread, topped with gold and silver patens,

chalices, before a reredos of two dozen saints or more in

grey stone, a counterpoint to the rose window

gentling, but improving, the sharp, pale winter New York sun

slanting down for a few hours between the sentinel

office buildings darkening Fifth Avenue one side at a time. A walk

to the carousel in Central Park, twirling in the snowflakes

while kids screamed in glee and mothers paced

frantically, as mother do, outside the pavilion. A long

walk up the East Side to Balto, bronze statue of a dog,

the sled dog that delivered vaccine to Nome in the

bad old days. I could sit on it. Everyone sat on it.

On to the boat lake where kids sailed radio-controlled

sailboats if the pond had not iced over yet. A coffee

there.

VIII

New York is coffee. For the price of coffee,

you can watch the most intricate dances of

humans from inside a cheap cafe, outdoors

at a dear one, or perched at kiosks dotting

the city. Long before Starbucks, Manhattan did

coffee. It's a frantic drink, but that's not why.

New York is not frantic. It has a heart and soul of

purest calm, the calm of knowing that no matter

what, it is the center of the universe. Only

those who have tasted the nectar of desire, and set

off in pursuit, truly understand.

IX

New York is my heart and soul.

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