Christmas Seven Times Seven
Seven-times-seven of these
till now, one spent alone.
I watch first lights come on
on a houseboat by the dim canal.
There are two whole families
somewhere on the earth I’ll call
who wouldn’t be surprised.
Seven-times-seven of these.
I woke up eye to eye
with my little zombie tree
whose blue-green-crimson bulbs still light
a path through other trees
to the beckoning unearthly spot
if I thin my eyes and think so.
falls on a Saturday,
like a tramp who’s trying to say
it’s Saturday to the holy beaming
family riding by,
their tinsel tied and fluttering,
their kindness claiming his kind
though seven-times-seven times
in fifty times they leave him
wordless by a dustbin.
The early light is pale and tinted,
precious, this one time
I’ve nothing much to bring it
but our old words for numbers.
and something comes, as if
the dark won’t stand for it,
silence can’t endure it either –
whatever breathes time breathes
and that abiding something-other
holds me like what holds those who
these seven-times-seven years
have clustered to their eerie
consolatory short story
that’s everything a child would hope:
that a time comes, reappears,
that with a firm and measured step
it’s all at once beside us
like seven-times-seven footsteps
along the sounding tunnel
as I walk this old canal.
And as often as I turn to see
who’s there and they’re my steps,
I think they’re mine till somebody
goes past me without turning.
from Pluto (Picador, 2013), © Glyn Maxwell 2013, used by permission of the author and the publisher.