Auden on the after-Christmas scene

Well, so that is that.  Now we must dismantle the tree,
Putting the decorations back into their cardboard boxes —
Some have got broken — and carrying them up to the attic.
The holly and the mistletoe must be taken down and burnt,
And the children got ready for school.  There are enough
Left-overs to do, warmed-up, for the rest of the week —
Not that we have much appetite, having drunk such a lot,
Stayed up so late, attempted — quite unsuccessfully —
To love all of our relatives, and in general
Grossly overestimated our powers.  Once again
As in previous years we have seen the actual Vision and failed
To do more than entertain it as an agreeable
Possibility, once again we have sent Him away,
Begging though to remain His disobedient servant,
The promising child who cannot keep His word for long.
The Christmas Feast is already a fading memory,
And already the mind begins to be vaguely aware
Of an unpleasant whiff of apprehension at the thought
Of Lent and Good Friday which cannot, after all, now
Be very far off.  But, for the time being, here we all are,
Back in the moderate Aristotelian city
Of darning and the Eight-Fifteen, where Euclid’s geometry
And Newton’s mechanics would account for our experience,
And the kitchen table exists because I scrub it.\
It seems to have shrunk during the holidays.  The streets
Are much narrower than we remembered; we had forgotten
The office was as depressing as this.  To those who have seen
The Child, however dimly, however incredulously,
The Time Being is, in a sense, the most trying time of all.
For the innocent children who whispered so excitedly
Outside the locked door where they knew the presents to be
Grew up when it opened.  Now, recollecting that moment
We can repress the joy, but the guilt remains conscious;
Remembering the stable where for once in our lives
Everything became a You and nothing was an It.
And craving the sensation but ignoring the cause,
We look round for something, no matter what, to inhibit
Our self-reflection, and the obvious thing for that purpose
Would be some great suffering.  So, once we have met the Son,
We are tempted ever after to pray to the Father;
“Lead us into temptation and evil for our sake.”
They will come, all right, don’t worry; probably in a form
That we do not expect, and certainly with a force
More dreadful than we can imagine.  In the meantime
There are bills to be paid, machines to keep in repair,
Irregular verbs to learn, the Time Being to redeem
From insignificance.  The happy morning is over,
The night of agony still to come; the time is noon:
When the Spirit must practice his scales of rejoicing
Without even a hostile audience, and the Soul endure
A silence that is neither for nor against her faith
That God’s Will will be done, That, in spite of her prayers,
God will cheat no one, not even the world of its triumph.


The Devil we met in San Francisco

The last stop in a long line of bars he came out of nowhere disguised as the asshole we all went to high school with.

He could have come from anywhere, like the bathrooms at the bottom of the stairs blocked by a caged gate the bartender had to open if you dared descend.

He could have come from inside the music playing on the jukebox which always has the potential to do us harm because  of what it recalls…

He could have rolled in off the smoke of the cigarettes outside the front door where the bartender took a break and told inappropriate jokes and everybody laughed, sort of, at the Asian making jokes about Asians.

He could have come right out from of the strangely hypnotic blue bottle featured behind the bar with the light in the bottom.

Anyway, he just walked up with a smile and said he wanted to fight our friend.

At first we laughed nervously, sure we’d heard wrong, and then a flood of different emotions–confusion, irritation anger and finally fear when it didn’t look like it would stop.

He pointed at each person in turn and called up the things we fear being.

The things we are.

The things we hate to be.

“Who do you think you are?” someone asked, but I think I know because words have a way of taking on flesh and dwelling among us, and those thoughts in us became words, took on flesh and there it was, as real as anything.

Katie said, “I need you to step back from me.”  Though smart and strong, I think she should have said “Get behind me.”

Then he was kicked out of the bar, but he was still smiling, promising to be back and I believe his words, and that is all it takes to know he is right–he will be back. Even if we never set foot in that bar again, never see that guy again.