I mentioned a while back that my poetry is full of references to light, whether it’s fireworks, stars, moonshine or street lamps, so I suppose it’s unsurprising that, however little attention I pay to Christmas in other respects, I enjoy seeing the festive lights and decorations around the streets and in people’s windows.
This year, I’ve noticed that the local decorations stop around 50 yards from where I live, with just two rather forlorn curlicues on lampposts this side of the traffic lights on the road out of town. I want to know who decides where the decorations end, and this idea of “the last light” – a bit like “the last homely house” – has been at the back of my mind since the lights were switched on in late November.
I was caught slightly off guard when Avrina and Alice of the two poets write blog on Tumblr asked me to contribute a guest poem for Christmas. My instinct was to say that I don’t have anything to say about the festive season and I haven’t been writing very much at all recently; but there was already this tiny grain of sand niggling away in the convolutions of my mind.
Anyway, a challenge is a challenge and on the day after the request arrived, I had to take a 90-minute bus journey to a meeting, which is an ideal setting and plenty of time to force the Muse into some kind of accord, even if she refuses to sing to order.
The piece has now gone through eight or nine iterations, and I’ve thrown away about 80% of what I originally wrote on that bus journey. Even so, it remains a work-in-progress.
It’s such a slight vignette that I think perhaps more than anything, the title will make or break it. My first idea was Gloria in excelsis, but then I realised that the glory I’m writing about is really rather mundane and tawdry: I suspect that the real stars “look down” in more than one sense of the verb.
I toyed for a while with the phrase Gloria in excessus, but I’m no Latin expert and it probably needs the ablative form – in excessu (?) – which doesn’t work anything like as well. The light of the world doesn’t have the necessary spark, and Fiat lux would tempt me to include car headlights in the picture.
For the moment, then, I’m settling for:
An awning of electric stripes
is draped across the market place;
guttering is garlanded
and lampposts blaze with paisley scrolls.
Shoppers’ footsteps shatter puddled light
while drizzle tinsels the air. Stars
look down on stars.