I am grateful to the poet Michael Cullup for drawing my attention to this tender love poem by Terence Hards (1922-1991); I vaguely knew the name but had never seen any of his work. He thought I’d like it, and I do, very much: a gift to remember for my 73rd birthday today!
At first I was a bit puzzled by the word ‘desecration’ in the second line and even queried whether it should be ‘decoration’, but no, ‘desecration’ is what the man wrote, and thinking about it harder one sees that the idea here is that the preoccupation with the exchange of material gifts at Christmas desecrates – deconsecrates – the real meaning of the festival, and that goes with the idea of allowing the season’s ‘unaccustomed plenty’ to deflect us from the true ‘expectations of the nativity’.
Terence appears to have published only one book of poetry, ‘As It Was’, in 1964; he spent his last years in the Dorset village of Morcombelake, where his retirement was tragically cut short when he was knocked down by a car as he crossed the street.
We are too penniless this year to buy
A desecration for festivity,
To lay out gifts or banquets and rely
On unaccustomed plenty to withstand
The expectations of nativity.
And so I wake you from your Christmas sleep
To see the vapour of our breath
Hang on the morning, motionless with frost,
And pause in the air above us like a debt.
I bring no presents, love, to scatter at your feet
But come more gently than the growth of moss,
And on my lips the blessing of your name
Is surely festival enough to keep.