’Twas the Night Before Christmas, 2020 version
’Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house,
All the people were scrolling with keyboard or mouse.
The COVID pandemic had stifled the land;
No orchestras playing, no theater, no band.
The streets were devoid of the holiday throngs;
No voices were blending in holiday songs.
Our stockings were strewn on the floor without care;
No joyfulness sparkled the stultified air.
The children were glued to grey, blue, and red phones,
Zoned out in their virtual worlds of headphones.
My dear and I slumped, neither singing nor dancing
Just watching TV, eating chips, and sweatpantsing.
When out in the street there arose such a clatter,
I sprang to my Mac to see what was the matter.
I Googled until my wrist tendons were sore,
Then realized that someone was outside my door.
I peeked through the curtain, flicked on the floodlight,
to counter the cold, empty darkness of night.
When what to my wondering eyes should appear
but a great dog and human, their gender unclear.
Though buried and bundled, all coat-hat-and-scarfed,
their eyes twinkled gaily, the dog wagged and “arfed!”
Behind dog and human, a bright painted sled,
bedecked with green sprouts tucked in tiny earth beds.
My bundled up friend looked so kind and delighted,
I threw on my mask, swung the door and invited
the two to come in, though our house was a sty.
They gave a small bow and a wink of their eye.
In their glasses I saw my own glad face reflected –
Such warmth! ’Twas so long since I’d felt so connected.
I wanted to hug this dear, kind-hearted guest,
to clasp their gloved hands, offer shelter and rest.
“You’re kind,” said my friend, but we have miles to go.
“We have all these trees left to give and to grow.
“But please, if you will, give a home to this seedling.
Its future could be lush with leafing and needling,
“replenishing soil, giving habitat cover
to creatures that wriggle or fly, walk or hover.
“The folks are forgetting the rest of Earth’s life;
we’re dooming ourselves to both boredom and strife.
“So please, take a tree, see the warmth it can bring
to brighten your winter, then plant it, come spring.
“There’s no better way to spread holiday cheer
than to bring life inside AND go outside, all year.
“You’re part of this planet, so love all its members,
through summer’s great flourish and dormant Decembers.
“These gifts will remind you of breath, sun, and air.
Give care to them; they can allay your despair.”
The dog sat in snow with its tail all a-fling;
It swept a wide arc like a great angel-wing.
I swear that it understood all that we said
with hopeful brown eyes and a slightly cocked head.
“Of course I will take some,” I staunchly replied.
My friend’s eyes recrinkled, the dog’s tail arc wide.
They placed a small boxed tree in each of my hands
then bent to the dog, where they whispered commands.
The dog stood and shook, and it gave me a wink,
then it turned the tree sled with a squeak and a clink.
My friend’s mufflered face gave me one more bright glance,
then they bounced to the dog in a gay little dance.
They reached in their layers of pockets and pleats
Then rubbed the dog’s ears and presented two treats.
Without a word more the two went on their way,
the human, the dog, and their tree-laden sleigh.
They disappeared quickly into the night’s shade.
The warmth that encompassed me started to fade.
I looked down and saw neither footprint nor track,
just a blank, snow-white field, like a broken-screened Mac.
They’d left not a mark in the new-fallen snow
but the dog’s angel wing that produced a faint glow.
My body was chilling, I should close the door,
but I needed to listen a few moments more.
Then I heard, and the voice seemed to come from great height,
“Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.”
Robin Clifford Wood (with apologies to Clement C. Moore)
Robin Clifford Wood is a writer and writing teacher. She lives in central Maine with her husband and dogs, loves to be outdoors, and enjoys ever-expanding horizons through her grown children and their multi-species families.