The Noisy Ghosts
of Christmas Present

~ By Mo Conlan

 

Five hundred miles north to Chicago

I drive beneath a gloomy sky,

in time to beat the snow.

A home stuffed with Christmas,

my dear ones, and noise –

I arrive at The Kingdom of Noise…

 

The younger has perfected

a glass-shattering shriek …

after his sister invades his room

and purloins toys.

“Get out of my room

and get out of my life.”

(Headed for The Met.)

 

A neighborhood tribe

of younglings gallops

through the house  --

pounding on the piano,

banging drums,

emitting banshee noises.

(I think of “Lord of the Flies.”)

 

Toys buzz, blip, beep, sing

and speak in robotic voices.

Always the background

fuzz of football, cartoons

and cooking shows on TV.

 

The child with the tin ear

skips about the house belting

out songs – loud as a young Streisand,

only off key.

“Can’t you make her stop,”

the boy with the ear for a tune cries.

 

The puppy, big as a baby polar bear

barks, tears around,

nails clicking on wood floors,

steals food from counter and plates

eliciting shouts of  “Bad Dog.”

(He’s not truly bad, just

quick and clever and untrained.)

 

And, too, there are sweeter sounds …

children giggling, laughing

as they read something funny.

They like to read, and this is a quiet blessing.

We sing Christmas carols with gusto.

 

Time for me to drive home,

but a blizzard is on the way.

I stay. Shriek, gallop, shout.

 

Finally, roads clear,

I drive south through

Prairie land to visit

my sister and family.

There I find a symphony

of stentorian sneezing,

coughing duets, achy moans

and my own, by comparison,

puny sniffles.

Still, against winter woes,

we find comfort

in quiet companionship,

in crosswords, jigsaw puzzles

and food – sweet slurp

of homemade soup,

cracking crab claws,

popping wine bottles,

waltz  music from Vienna

on New Year’s Day.

 

Time to go.

Three hundred miles

across the Prairie,

home to Cincinnati.

No snow. Crisp

cold winter day

with calypso blue sky,

tufts of cornstalks

dusted with snow.

 

My secret pleasure –

ten delicious audio books in the back seat.

 

My CD player goes mute.

All I hear for six hours

is the white noise of the road,

occasional whine of fierce wind.

The firs in their stately greendom,

say not a word. The lacy,

bare-limbed others whisper nothing.

 

 

I arrive home to my still house,

my quiet cats, my mute paints,

oddly refreshed, ready

to burrow into winter

and its quiet pursuits.


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