Up out of deep and troubled sleep
The ghost of Christmas faces came
And in the gloom beside my bed
With ghostly murmur called my name.
“Behold,” it said, and bony finger
Pointed to its glowing head
Where that my steadfast gaze beheld
Chilled through my soul with awful dread.
For, lo, within its cloak’ed hood
How constantly its faces chang’d;
Each for an instant came and went
And baleful look’d, as if estranged
From all remembered love and care,
And all were wistful, solemn grown,
Though some were children, some adult,
Each face was someone I had known.
“Dread spirit, who are you,” I cried,
And fearful trembled on my bed
As if but one the faces spoke:
“I am your friends,” the spirit said.
“Each one of us has known you long;
Though time and friendship have we shared,
While we were mortal, passing by,
We took for granted that we cared.
“We did not take the fleeting time
Required to say ‘You are my friend,’
To just acknowledge that we cared
While time passed by to certain end.”
“What matter that?” I cried at last,
“You are my friends, I know you well;
We’ve shared in that unspoken way
Of brotherhood one need not tell.”
Still yet more faces came and went;
The spirit heaved a baleful sigh:
“Now some are dead,” it simply said,
“You took for granted, as did I.”
Then like a sword that pierced my mind
Did awful understanding come:
Such simple gifts I seldom gave!
And comprehension left me numb.
“Oh, Spirit of all Friends,” I asked,
“It’s not too late for those who live!
Can I redeem such oversight
With simple words I’ve yet to give?”
Then subtly did the faces change;
While yet they fleetingly pass’d by
Each one possessed a radiant smile,
And friendly warmth shown from each eye.
The spirit’s glow expanded then,
A blinding light that fill’d my room;
I think I swooned; the next I knew
Was morning sun in richest bloom
Full streaming through my window sash;
From bed I leaped and threw it wide,
Thrust out my head in childlike joy,
I could not wait to get outside.
For I had friends that I must see,
So many friends that I must tell
“How glad I am that you’re my friend!”
This Christmas, Friend, I’ll tell it well.
The Phantom Poet, Christmas 1988
Preface—July 29, 1988
I never know in advance what’s going to inspire the penning of a poem—or just as often, a prose. But I always know when the time is right, because the thing flows out virtually effort free, a sort of mind dump that arrives as an unexpected gift. If I try to force one out on command it seldom works out as well.
Likewise, the subject of such literary foray usually comes as a surprise to me. The urge may involve a person, place, thing or feeling. Persons rank highest in this regard. A substantial majority of my spontaneous writings, many too personal for public sharing, are dedicated to people. Inspiration comes most often from the lovely people I know, friends who enrich life’s meaning.