- NYS Writers Institute
Poetry Friday: "Holiday Poem" by Enid Dame
"Central Park in Winter," hand-colored lithograph by Currier & Ives (American, active New York, 1857–1907) Bequest of Adele S. Colgate, 1962. Public domain. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
"Every time I read this poem, which I have many times privately, and in public at poetry open mics, I hear Enid's distinct voice which creeps into my reading of it, and when I reach the final line I often choke up.
The poem strips away the commercialism of the season to what human existence is all about, why we gather together this dark time of the year, no matter what our cultures, with food, candles and our loved ones.
We need each other's light.' That's all she needed to say."
--Dan Wilcox, poet and peace activist, Albany.
by Enid Dame
Make your own holiday, I want to say
forget the scolding billboards the feverish malls
the glittering tinsel the hard and soft machines the guilt.
Forget Santa Claus in his red suit
(it was blue in Yugoslavia,
a country that has fallen off the map).
Forget the gross national product forget Wall Street the rising market.
Make your own bread rise in your oven.
Make up new recipes.
Make your own candles, I want to exhort.
Make those bees work overtime!
The past glimmers seductively that happy safe radiant place
where snow wrapped the village in angelhair
and Grandma’s cranberries winked like rubies.
They own it now the conglomerates the CEOs the dream dealers.
They sell it back to us in bits and pieces.
They’ve downsized our fantasies.
They want us all wrapped snugly in electric blankets
dreaming the same-colored dream
while the locked-out people, who can’t afford dreams,
play with matches down the street.
Perhaps I shouldn’t say a word.
I’m a stranger in this culture.
In the milltown, the stores dazzled us each December.
Red electric bells sang on every corner.
Mothers and neighbors swung through the streets
Lionel trains toasters perfume doll furniture bedroom suites.
(My father the radical worked overtime
smiling, accepting greetings for a day he had no part in,
coming home exhausted after all the bells winked out.
We lit small candles made pancakes hung stockings
Santa Claus, my mother allowed but no Christ child no pagan tree.
We weren’t extremists.)
My mother the 30s radical
trapped in the 50s in a house too small
for all her talents – even her talent for sorrow –
told me, “Don’t buy me a holiday card.
Why make the card company richer?”
I thought of making my own pulled out paints
too messy too lazy too undextrous I grew discouraged
Hallmark could do it better! I
gave nothing at all those years.
But this year, in the diminishing ‘90s
when all the old hopeful flames have guttered out,
as the century melts down like a candle to a small hard nub,
when too many of us are locked out of our stories
in this dark cold overworked tunnel of time,
I want to give something back to the universe:
I want to be politically correct
(or incorrect, depending upon your viewpoint).
I want to say, Let’s make a feast,
a feast of candles a feast of languages
Let’s celebrate each other’s Gods
(and dreams and histories). Let’s sit down and listen.
Let’s do Christmas Hanukah Kwanzaa solstice
Let’s invite Buddhists Muslims Hindus secular humanists anarchists Gnostics.
Late December is a needy time. But
we don’t need the solace of bought objects.
We need each other’s light.
Enid Dame (1943 – 2003) was a poet, writer and teacher. She was born in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania and lived for many years in Brooklyn and High Falls, New York. She was on the faculty of the New Jersey Institute of Technology and Rutgers University in New Brunswick, where she served as Associate Director of the Writing Program.
Her books include Anything You Don’t See (1992, West End Press), Stone Shekhina (2002, Three Mile Harbor), and Where is the Woman? Letters and Poems from California (2006, Shivastan Publishing), edited by her husband, Donald Lev.
Enid and Donald co-edited the literary tabloid Home Planet News. Enid Dame died on Christmas