Santaic verses(1998)

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Verse 1 of the epic poem of Notomla

He braves the north wind,
Impatient and icy.
Daggers of snow and sleet
Thrust at his craggy brow
And jab vainly at
the alabaster gentleness
Of his furry beardedness

He is Notomla,
But a billion Christmas-crazed
Dead tree worshippers
Know him as
Santa. The great Santa.
King of the North Pole Santa.
Santa with
the incongruous ruby-nosed reindeer
Whose non-existence
Is refuted
Innumerable times each day
By the mellifluous voice
Of he who,
Disguised in cowboy hat and chaps,
Hoped to make
Each listener's Christmas season
A little merrier.
With a song.

Notomla sits by the fire
And remembers the past
As the whirling sparks
Crackle and dance
Like reveling stars
reflected in a maelstrom.

There is no band of caroling cherubs here
To please the ear and tease the mind
With visions of holly,
Ivy, hogsheads
And fig-infested glutinous puddings.
No sleighbells sing Notomla
To sleep as he nods by the hearthside,
Though, if truth be told,
A thousand well-intentioned solid citizens of the world
Have sent Notomla
String upon string
of the finest sleighbells
That the gnomes of Zurich
And the rice-loving denizens of Mount Fuji
Can manufacture
Using just-in-time technology.

Notomla dreams
Of a world
Where spirits of good will
Shine brighter
Than strings of ovoid luminescence
Wrapped around evergreen boughs.

Notomla wakes.
It is time to stir.
The burden that has rested on his
Shoulders for eons
Must be borne again.
The toys,
The trains,
The whirring, flashing thingamawhoozits
That young offshoots
Of the Santa cult dream of at this moment
In a million condos
And split-level ranch houses
And Colonial mansions
And hovels of sun-dried mud and adobe
In the twinkling metropolises to the south.

These toys must be crafted
With loving care
By Notomla,
Who braves the North Wind
And sits dreaming by the hearth.


Santaic verses: Verse 2, part 1

Two men through the inky darkness fell,
Silent save for involuntary gasps
In the thin air.
Above them,
Like a jeweled crucifix
Or an exfoliated Christmas tree
That hides its nakedness
With strings of blinking red and white lights,
The airplane continues on its route
From Chicago to Helsinki
Across the top of the world.

The savage Arctic cold,
Like the hug
Of a hungry, amorous cactus,
Pricks at their skin
Through seven layers of flannel and acryllic.
The cactus wishes to dance,
And the wind obliges
With an accompaniment
Of shrieks and moans
Interrupted only by the "FWAP!"
Of two parachutes opening.

Of the exiled sun
There is no trace,
But another type of sun -- Edisun --
Beckons from below.

"We are here to see Santa Claus,"
The first man says
To the flannel-bound gnome
At the door.
"We are reporters,"
The second man explains,
"Santa knows we are coming."

Notomla sits by the fire,
Saying nothing as the men
Are seated,
One on each side of him.
"There is no Santa Claus,"
Notomla tells them,
"And never has been.
I merely do the work
That he would do
If he existed."

The reporters glance
At each other
And begin to write
As Notomla crosses
His long, lanky legs
And places another blanket
Across his gaunt frame.

"We received a hearty welcome
From Santa Claus,"
The reporter on the left writes.
Santa is every bit as short
And plump as we expected,"
The other reporter records.

"Now that I am 100 years old,"
Notomla continues,
"My only wish
Is that my story gets told."

"Tell us about your sleigh,"
The reporters say,
"And your reindeer, especially Rudolph."

"I feed hungry reindeer,
That is true,"
Notomla says,
"But I have no sleigh
And would not use reindeer to pull it
If I had one.
I have never seen a red-nosed reindeer,
And I don't know of any
One else who has."

"Santa's sleigh has been
Reconditioned for this year's flight,"
One reporter writes.
"The reindeer have never been better,
Especially Rudolph,"
Writes the other.


Santaic verses, Verse 2 Part 2

“I make a few toys for children
Who have no families,
Or whose parents can't afford
To give them presents.”
Notomla continues,
"But mostly my company
Is a consulting service
For parents who want
Advice on gift-giving.
Parents and grandparents
And uncles and aunts
Are the true Santa Clauses of the world.
Without them there would be no Christmas.”

“Santa and his elves
Are very busy right now
Making toys
For all the children in the world,”
The first reporter writes.
“Santa assures the parents of the world
That there will be toys
For all the world's children
On Christmas morning,”
The other reporter reports.

“I won't live much longer, I fear,”
Notomla says weakly,
“But my son does most
Of the work anyway,
And he has an MBA
From Harvard.
The company will do fine without me.”

“Santa is more than 1,000 years old,”
The first reporter writes,
“But he's a youthful 1,000.
We expect him to still be around
Many centuries hence.”

“Don't believe a word he says,”
The doorkeeper tells the men
As she leads them
To the helicopter.
“He really is Santa,
And he still delivers presents
With a flying sleigh
And reindeer
On Christmas Eve.”

“We suspected as much,”
The first reporter says with a smile.
“How do you explain his thinness?”
The other reporter wonders.

“Well, that part's true,”
The doorkeeper allows.
"You know how the press exaggerates.
MY predessor remembers that Notomla
was pretty fat fifty years ago.
Great age is ruinous, isn't it?”

Verse 3

A day has passed.
Laughter echoes
In the hallways
Of Notomla's workshop,
That improbably irridescent gem
Of the perpetual Arctic night.
The elf-children
Have come to claim
Their Christmas treasures.

The jewel box springs open
At the touch
Of many darting, prying fingers.
The silvery disc
Nestles into its tray,
Which then slithers
Into the CD player,
And we hear the source
Of their amusement:

“'You are old, Father Christmas,'
The young elf said,
'And your beard is most feathery light,
Yet we wake every morning
Concerned for your head.
We are told that it aches—are we right?'”

There is a pause
As the children choose
Another song:

“Santa, you are so unreal.
Just how jolly does an old elf feel?
All those hours in a hardwood sleigh:
Rheumatism till Groundhog Day!”

Resting in his favorite armchair
In the parlor,
Smiles at this.
He blows his nose.

Now another voice can be heard.
It is that of his great-granddaughter Amy,
Who thinks the first song
Was “You are old, Father William,”
From her beloved
"Alice in Wonderland."
She starts to sing.

“Please don't!”
Says older sister Vicky,
“That's not a carol.”

“Yes, it is,” Amy insists,
“It's a Lewis Carroll!”
Their brother Todd,
Who doesn't like arguments,
Plays the next song:

“Don't let your children
Grow up to be Santa Claus;
Tell 'em it violates
All kinds of laws.
Tell 'em they'll slip
On those slippery ice floes,
Get eaten by polar bears,
Or freeze with those skimpy clothes.”

Notomla's daughter Ginny
Enters the parlor
With apple juice for her father,
Whose brow she feels.
"They like my gift,”
He tells her happily.
“The best song of all
Is the very next one.”

No one wants to hear it, though,
With other presents waiting still.
“The Symphony Santastique,”
Conducted by young Stanley Clo,
Will not be heard this afternoon.
Notomla sneezes.
The nurse arrives
With a thermometer
And something warm
To soothe his cold.
Soon he is asleep.


Verse 4, Part 1

The sun peeks out
From glowering clouds
That sit
Like chocolate-speckled cream puffs
Atop the time-worn splendor
Of Vienna's monuments
And ivy-bearded concert halls
As Notomla,
Now a skinny teenager named Al Moton,
Escorted by his anxious father,
Arrives at Doctor Freud's clinic.
It is 1913.

“You dream of Santa Claus?”
Herr Freud exclaims.
“This is not strange at all.
You must have seen
Herr Claus
In the window of a store,
And relived your memory of that day
In your dream.”

“The dream comes every year,”
Al says,
“The same day every year.
On Christmas Eve
I always dream
I am a plump old elf
In a sleigh pulled by reindeer,
Delivering gifts.”

“And are they flying reindeer?”
Freud demands.
“If so, you surely have a special gift
Of will or intellect
With which to rise above
The limitation of your lot in life,
For flying is a way
Of reaching out
With healing hand
And giving heart
To those who need your help.”

“Herr Doctor,”
Al Moton explains,
“The reindeer fly,
The sleigh flies too,
But I do not.
I do not mind that I am he
Who brings such gifts
To children everywhere,
But still this is not an answer to my question.
What does my dream signify?”

“Repressed desires possibly,”
Herr Freud replies,
“Disguised fulfillment of a wish repressed.”

That night,
Another dream arrives
To further baffle and befog
Our young man's troubled mind.
There are no reindeer,
Just a sleigh,
And on its side,
In letters carved
Appears the message
“Al Moton is Notomla.”

he looks again,
And now it reads
“Notomla is Santa Claus.”
And then the dream is over.

He asks Herr Freud
About this dream,
And all that can be gleaned
Is the idea
That sometimes
A cigar
Is just
A cigar.


Verse 4, Part 2

To Jung he goes,
To learn of archetypes.

“You are the patriarch,”
Is Jung's conviction.
“The world depends on you
For that which only you can give.
It is your lot in life
To be the one
Who gives to those in need,
And, in so giving,
You receive what you yourself must have.”

Christmas Eve arrives again,
As also does the dream,
The same unchanging dream,
And Al/Notomla wonders:
Did I dream of Freud and Jung as well?

His reverie is broken
By a clinking sound,
Which soon he recognizes
As the beat
Of silver forks and spoons
On porcelain,
As family members gather
For their Christmas Eve repast.

And now his son and daughter
Bring him dinner on a tray,
Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes,
Though he isn't very hungry.
Still, he eats a bit
To humor them,
And soon they walk away,
Talking politics and money,
Wondering why his company's stock
Went down so much today
On rumors that his health is poor.
Must have been those danged reporters
That were here the other day!

Notomla dozes off, but wakes again;
The parlor fire has been lit,
The sparks still dance,
The north wind howls outside.
Notomla knows
What dream he will soon have.
He hopes it will not be his last.


Verse 5, Part 1

In Boston there's a bookstore
In a shopping mall,
Where Stanley Clo,
On Christmas Eve
(And late to boot:
It's 8:00p.m.!),
Wants just the perfect book to read,
His recent dream to understand.
Religion or psychology?
Or maybe folktales of the Sioux?
He's never had a dream like this,
A reindeer and a bearded man
Who asked his help
And promised, in return,
Fulfillment of his vision quest.
Stan leaves the bookstore,
Musing still,
And listens momentarily
As a cappella singers
In Victorian array
Bounce their carols off the rafters.
Down the glass-walled elevator
Goes our dreamer,
To the spot
Where his humble transportation
Waits in faithful silence
For his key.
Half an hour, maybe less,
Finds him sitting in his parlor,
Apprehensive that tranquility
Shall have vanished
When he starts to dream tonight.


Verse 5, Part 2

A peaceful dream
He shall not have,
For halfway through the night,
A voice familiar
Speaks his name.
Waking, he sees
The haggard, ashen face
Of the old man
Of his previous dream,
And hears,
In halting, feeble tones,
The old man's plea
That Stanley Clo
Might help him out

“One night a year,”
The old man sighs,
“I have the dream
In which I ride
A sleigh piled high
With gifts for all the world.
Tonight, I share this dream with you,
Because alone I've not the strength
To finish what I've started.
Alas, it was my folly
Not to hire an apprentice
Who could carry on
When I am gone.
My kind of kindred spirits
Are quite few and far between.
Though I've read the hearts of millions,
All I seem to find is

“I'm quite willing, Sir, to help you,”
Stan Clo answers,
“Though I fear
This is no one-time arrangement,
But a true lifetime career.
You've said that you can read men's hearts,
But can you seize their dreams?”

“No, no,” says Santa softly,
“I can read another's dreams,
But you are fearful needlessly.
I would not now be in your dream
If 'twere against your wish.”


Verse 5, part 3

The air is cold
As Stan helps Santa
Climb into his sleigh.
At every house,
'Tis Stan who lugs
The sacks of gifts
For placement
'Round the Christmas tree.

But when the sleigh is moving
As from house to house it flies,
It's Santa who takes charge
As he shares a lifetime's secrets
With his new-found designee:

“There's a burden borne by Santa
No one else can understand,
For a dream can last much longer
Than the dreamer is asleep,
And the task of bringing gifts
Is monumental to the core.
In your waking hours,
You find that hardly anyone
Santa Claus exists,
Or, if he does,
That Santa Claus is you.
You must tell the press, especially,
That there's no Santa Claus.
Otherwise you'd be stalked
By folks who'd like to profit
By their links to you.

“Santa has his workshop
At the North Pole
For a reason,
For seclusion has its blessings.
You can not be forced to live there,
But, in case you'd like to try it,
We could use another worker
At my company.”

He smiled.


Verse 6

Sing hey, sing ho
For the new New Year
From ashes risen,
See it appear.
Are the embers cold and dark?
There may still be one small spark,
Just enough to warm our hearts with cheer.

Notomla's workshop,
Much reduced in radiance,
Sits with curtains black
At every window.
Bleak indeed
Are both Notomla's children,
Shocked to find their father's will
Has left them
With less than they expected.

“Santa Claus loved every child
Except, perhaps, his own,”
The tabloids scream.

But Stanley Clo is shocked as well,
To find a man he hardly knew
Has left him all his stock,
And a new career
Much more secure
Than sundry songs and dances.

At times,
When Clo is sleeping,
He will see Notomla sitting,
As in older days
He braved the North wind
And watched the sparks dance.
No word he speaks,
But Stanley Clo
Knows why he is there.

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