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Twelfth Day.

Our Christmas tree came down a few days early this year; usually I’m a stickler for Twelfth Night but I was fed up with it, I was going back to work and ready to get on with the New Year.  So, on Sunday it was stripped of baubles and trinkets and dragged outside, and the rest of the paraphernalia was put away in the loft till next year.  I went back to work, and it snowed.  And snowed, and snowed and snowed, and it now looks more like the traditional Christmas card than it ever did before Christmas.

But today it is Twelfth Day, Epiphany.  The journey of the Magi took them to that stable in Bethlehem and they presented a newborn child with gifts that represented the promises his life would fulfil; there was gold, for his kingship, frankincense to show that this baby would grow into a religious leader, and myrrh, an embalming oil, to symbolise his death.  Cheery stuff, eh? A group of shepherds had also travelled to Bethlehem and brought lambs to the child in the cradle too, symbolising that he would become a shepherd, despite being the son of a carpenter.  His parents and the sundry other folk that had gathered must have wondered what was going on; I bet there were a few questions being asked!

But I have only one question:  what would that child, that priest, that shepherd, that human sacrifice, make of the world today?  Before Christmas I read the words that Carol Ann Duffy had written, and I have added them below. There’s the answer, I think, and it’s not what he would want to hear.  If only the hand of God could shake it up, like a world inside a snow-globe, and watch it settle into something calm and beautiful – maybe that’s what IS happening?

1
ON THE FIRST DAY OF CHRISTMAS,
a buzzard on a branch.

In Afghanistan,
no partridge, pear tree;
but my true love sent to me
a card from home.
I sat alone,
crouched in yellow dust,
and traced the grins of my kids
with my thumb.
Somewhere down the line,
for another father, husband,
brother, son, a bullet
with his name on.

2
TWO TURTLE DOVES,
that Shakespeare loved –
turr turr, turr turr
endangered now
by herbicide,
the chopping down
of where they hide –
turr turr, turr turr
hawthorn thickets,

hedgerows, woodland.
Summer’s music
fainter, farther…
the spreading drought
of the Sahara.

3
THREE FRENCH HENS –
un, deux, trois
do not know
that French they are.

Three Welsh lambs –
un, dau, tri
do not know
that Welsh they baa.

Newborn babies –
one, two, three –
only know
you human be.

Only know
you human be.

4
THE GRENADA DOVE IS CALLING.
The Condor calls from the USA.
The Wood Stork calls from its wetlands.
The Albatross calls from the sea,
on the fourth day of Christmas.

The Yellow-eared Parrot is calling.
The Kakapo calls from NZ.
The Blue-throated Macaw is calling.
The Little Tern calls from Japan, calls
my true love sent to me.

The Corncrake is calling; the Osprey.
The Baikal Teal calls from Korea.
The Cuckoo is calling from England,
four calling birds.

5
THE FIRST GOLD RING WAS GOLD INDEED –
bankers’ profits fired in greed.

The second ring outshone the sun,
fuelled by carbon, doused by none.

Ring three was black gold, O for oil –
a serpent swallowing its tail.

The fourth ring was Celebrity;
Fool’s Gold, winking on TV.

Ring five, religion’s halo, slipped –
a blind for eyes or gag for lips.

With these five gold rings they you wed,
then slip them off when you are dead.

With these five go-o-o-old rings.

6
I BOUGHT A MAGIC GOOSE FROM A JOLLY FARMER.
This goose laid Barack Obama.

I bought a magic goose from a friendly fellow.
This goose laid Fabio Capello.

I bought a magic goose from a maiden (comely).
This goose laid Joanna Lumley.

I bought a magic goose from a busker (poor).
This goose laid Anish Kapoor.

I bought a magic goose from a bargain bin, it
was the goose laid Alan Bennett.

I bought a poisoned goose from a crook (sick, whiffing).
This foul goose laid Nick Griffin.

7
THE SWAN AT COCKERMOUTH –
of a broken heart, one half.

The Mersey Swans, flying
for Hillsborough, wings of justice.

Two, married and mute on the Thames,
watching The Wave.

A Swan for Adrian Mitchell
and a Swan for UA Fanthorpe,
swansongs for poetry.

The Queen’s birds, paired
for life, beauty and truth.

8
ONE MILKED MONEY TO MEND HER MOAT.
Two milked voters to float her boat.
Three milked Parliament to flip her flat.
Four milked Government to snip her cat.
Five milked the dead for close-up tears.
Six milked the tax-payer for years and
years and years…
Seven milked the system to Botox
her brow.
Eight milked herself – the selfish cow.

9
BUT THE DEAD SOLDIER’S LADY DOES NOT DANCE.
But the lady in the Detention Centre
does not dance.
But the honour killing lady does not dance.
But the drowned policeman’s lady
does not dance.
But the lady in the filthy hospital ward
does not dance.
But the lady in Wootton Bassett does not dance.
But the gangmaster’s lady does not dance.
But the lady with the pit bull terrier
does not dance.
But another dead soldier’s lady
does not dance.

10
LORDS DON’T LEAP.
They sleep.

11
WE PAID THE BLUDDY PIPER
fir ‘Royal Bank;
twa pipers each
fir Fred and Phil,
fir Finlay, Fraser, Frank.
Too big tae fail!
The wee dog laughed!
The dish ran awa’ wi’ the spoon…
We paid the bluddy pipers,
but we dinnae call the tune.

12
DID THEY HEAR THE DRUMS IN COPENHAGEN,
banging their warning?
On the twelfth day in Copenhagen
was global warming stopped in its tracks
by Brown and Barack and Hu Jintao,
by Meles Zenawi and Al Sabban,
by Yvo de Boer and Hedegaard?
Did they strike a match
or strike a bargain,
the politicos in Copenhagen?
Did they twiddle their thumbs?
Or hear the drums
and hear the drums
and hear the drums?

Carol Ann Duffy

2009

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Comments on: "Twelfth Day." (2)

  1. Excellent entry. Really enjoyed the read!

  2. helenphillips said:

    What an interesting but sad modernisation!

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