Saint Cecilia in Boston

Two years
Since our exile in the North,
David Ross,
My best American friend,
Invited me to Boston
For Christmas Day,
To eat a patriotic bird,
And chew the fat,
And still be close,
Before our kinship
Slipped away.

When I arrived,
The city lurked,
In a chill eve's gloom.
We hugged and shivered,
Then back at his room,
He told me of the feast
That he had planned,
And, with eager hand
Proudly pulled the metal door
To show what treats he had in store.

I grinned,
But then I viewed
With cool distain,
A completely empty fridge,
A naked slaughtered beast,
And a bottle of champagne.

But why complain?
He joked.
Linda could always
Bring more wine.
But look at the time,
I croaked,
As touched by Dickens' wagging ghost,
I longed for gravy, parsnips, toast
And many dainty touches, too,
To cloak
A proper English roast.

And so in silent Boston streets,
On Christmas Eve,
We went in search
Of berries, roots and leaves.

But all was dark and shut,
In praise of Heaven,
Except for one small pool
Of orange light,
A Seven-Eleven.

The answer,
To our dismal quest,
A can of dolmas,
Dense and slimy
At its best.

But on the day,
Linda came,
With sweet dessert.
And lack of trimmings
Did not hurt
The mood too grievously.

David even played the host,
Using his one classical CD,
Of Purcell's most beloved ode,
That I had given, previously.

But the music,
That I had loved so well,
In that stark place,
Sounded pretentious,
Alien and shrill.

My thoughts went back,
To Cambridge songs,
And Phyllida,
Whose auburn charms,
And Agnus Dei,
Had left my heart disarmed,
And my fondest hopes
In hopeless disarray.

Did Phyllidendrum sing like this?
Dave quipped,
At agonizing pitch,
Like some demented
Crooning witch.

At that I could not help,
But laugh,
And glower,
To hear my oft-remembered angel,
My earthly Saint Cecilia,
Reduced to the parody
Of a flower.

Annoyed, I said,
Is a great teetering tree,
Without such roots.

But, responded Dave,
When a plant would fly,
It casts off its boots.

The dandelion,
In a firework burst
Of white.

The daring maple
Hazards all
On wind-blow
One-winged flight.

That is how
The future is begun.
That is how
A continent is won.

Years later,
Now I'm nearly done,
And half my life,
Was spent away from home.
And even though
I have a wife,
And kids,
And plenty's fill
To call my own,
I look at Tahoe pines,
Their tendrils deep
Within the earth,
And see that they
Gave birth
To mountain forests
Vast and steep.

And yet I see the wounds
And cracks within their bark,
And how they weep.

I see them
Perched up high on arid
Crumbling crags,
Or after fiery collapse,
Cast down below,
Into the sunless glacial trap
Of some decayed crevasse.

And though I know,
They're sun machines
Of wood and sap,
And have no mind,
I can't but think
When their limbs ache,
From heavy snow
And winds unkind,
Could they regret
Their childhood's flight?
And do their branches
Feel the weight,
Of places that they left behind?

© 2013 Gavin Miller. All rights reserved.