Robin Clifford Wood: Night Before Christmas - Pandemic Version

’Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house,
the people were scrolling with keyboard or mouse.
The COVID pandemic had stifled the land;
no orchestras playing, no theater, no band.
The streets were devoid of their bustling throngs.
No voices were blending in seasonal songs.

Our stockings were strewn on the floor without care;
no joyfulness sparkled the stultified air.
The children were glued to grey, blue, and red phones,
zoned out in their virtual worlds of headphones.
My dear and I slumped, neither singing nor dancing,
just watching TV, eating chips, and sweatpantsing.

Then out in the street there arose such a clatter,
I sprang to my Mac to see what was the matter.
I googled until my wrist tendons were sore,
then realized that someone was outside my door.
I peeked through the curtain, flicked on the porch light,
to counter the cold, empty darkness of night,

when what to my wondering eyes should appear
but a great dog and human, their gender unclear.
Though buried and bundled, all coat-hat-and-scarfed,
one’s eyes twinkled gaily, the dog wagged and “arfed!”
Behind dog and human, the brightest of sleds
was stocked with green seedlings in tiny earth beds.

My bundled up friend looked so kind and delighted,
I threw on my mask, swung the door and invited
the two to come in, though our house was a sty.
There came a small bow and the wink of an eye.
I wanted to hug this dear, kind-hearted guest,
to clasp the gloved hands, offer shelter and rest.

“You’re kind,” said my friend, "but we have miles to go.
We have all these trees left to give and to grow.
But please, if you will, give a home to a seedling,
to flourish in future with leafing and needling,
replenishing soil, giving habitat cover
to creatures that wriggle or fly, walk or hover.

The folks are forgetting the rest of Earth’s life;
we’re dooming ourselves to both boredom and strife.
So please, take a tree, see the warmth it can bring
to brighten your winter, then plant it, come spring.
You’re part of this planet, so love all its members,
through summer’s abundance and dormant Decembers."

This gift will remind you of breath, sun, and air
The care you bestow will allay your despair.”
The dog sat in snow with its tail all a-fling;
it swept a wide arc like a great angel-wing.
I’d swear that it understood all that we said,
with hopeful brown eyes and a slightly cocked head.

But, of course, I will take some,” I staunchly replied.
My friend’s eyes recrinkled, the dog’s tail arced wide.
A treelet delivered in each of my hands,
I watched my guest bend and give whispered commands.
The dog stood and shook, and it gave me a wink
then turned the tree sled with a squeak and a clink.

My friend reached through layers of pockets and pleats,
then rubbed the dog’s ears and presented two treats.
That keen mufflered face gave me one more bright glance,
as the dog kicked up snow in a gay little dance.
They disappeared quickly; I wish they had stayed.
The warmth that encompassed me started to fade.

I looked down and saw neither footprint nor track,
Just a blank, snow-white field, like a broken-screened Mac.
They’d left not a mark in the new-fallen snow
but the dog’s angel wing that produced a faint glow.
Then I heard, and the voice seemed to come from great height,
Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.”