Nancy Byrd Turner Poems >>
December

The house of December was all aglow,
  Each room was jolly and red;
  There were bulgy stockings ranged in a row,
  And holly hung overhead.
  A silver star hung fair and far,
  A silver bell rang clear;
  And some Christmas children came out and cried,
  "Come in to the Christmas Cheer!"

The children had a glorious time at the December house. There was a
beautiful tree there, all lighted and ready.

"But we can't take the things off, you know," one Christmas child told
Amos and Ann, "until somebody says a rhyme."

A clock chimed two a minute later, and caught Amos in the middle of a
sentence, at the words, "it was." So he went on and said:--

  "It was crammed and laden and bent with fruit,
   The tree that bore in a night;
  Rich with treasure from tip to root,
   A very goodly sight.
  Dim in the parlor's gloom it showed,
  When a tiny gleam at the window glowed;
  When over the hills a rooster crowed,
   It thrilled through all its height.

  "A rubber doll on a distant limb
   Stretched with a sleepy word;
  A little lead soldier answered him,
   And a big stuffed elephant stirred.
  A quiver flickered the pop-corn strings,
  Fluttered the tinsel angel's wings,
  Tinkled the silver balls and things,
   Till all of the company heard.

  "A jack-in-the-box with a frisky eye
   Suddenly jumped his lid,
  And a white-rag rabbit that hung close by
   Squeaked with fright when he did;
  A dog from London began to bark;
  The animals in the Noah's ark
  Struggled and scuffled in the dark,
   Back in the branches hid.

  "The large French doll (she was very vain)
   Settled her silk and lace;
  The rocking horse of the tawny mane
   Struck up a gentle pace;
  And hither and thither the boughs among,
  Sampling the goodies, tooth and tongue,
  A mechanical monkey slid and swung
   With agile monkey grace.

  "All was still when the children came
   With candle-stars adorning;
  Somebody heard and hissed a name,
   Whispered a sudden warning.
  Now don't get curious, people, please.
  It's generally known that things like these
  Only happen to Christmas trees
   Quite early Christmas morning."

"I like that poem, Amos," said Ann, "though I must say I don't know how
you found out all that." Then she asked the little Christmas girl to
repeat a poem.

"I know one about a different kind of Christmas tree," the little girl
said.

"Not a prettier tree than this one here in the room--surely!" cried Amos
and Ann.

The Christmas child reflected. "Yes," she said, "prettier, in a way, than
this--because it was such a surprise. Listen."

Then she told them about it.

  "A little bird told a squirrel,
  And a squirrel told a jay,
  That a poor child lived in a city
  Not very far away,
  Who never at any Christmas
  Had a Christmas tree in her home;
  And the jay bird told a rabbit next,
  And the rabbit told a gnome.
  The gnome blew thrice on his fingers
  For half a dozen elves,
  And he told them the sorrowful rumor,
  And he said, 'Now stir yourselves!'

  "Then Tip and Twinkle and Tony
  And Pete and Chipper and Chase
  Hurried and scurried the whole day through,
  Till they'd put the tree in place.
  They trimmed it with moss and holly,
  And odd little colored stones,
  And seeds and chestnuts and apples,
  And feathers and leaves and cones.
  And icicles hung upon it,
  And crystals of snow gleamed white;
  And soon as the sun rose on it,
  It sparkled and flamed with light.
  Then two birds perched in the tree top,
  And half a dozen elves
  Climbed gayly into the branches
  And safely hid themselves.

  "And the little girl came to the window,
  And wide her shutters flew.
  She cried, 'I dreamed of a Christmas tree,
  And here is my dream come true!'"

Then the presents were taken from the Christmas tree and given round among
the little girls and boys who were present.

Just as the last gift was handed down, the last candles went suddenly out,
and, at the same time, clocks began to strike all over the house.

The Journeying Man picked up his stick. "Time to go to bed!" he cried.

Amos and Ann were astonished. "To bed?" they repeated, unbelieving. "To
bed, in Zodiac Town?"

"No, in your own home," replied J. M. "Come along, Amos and Ann!"

And when they still held back, he gave them a funny little scolding all in
rhyme, which pleased them so that they followed him out into the dusk with
never a word!

  "It's strange how things can differ so!
   Now, take two kinds of fruit--
  Banana chap and Orange--
   And watch each doff his suit.

  "Banana's swift and nimble,
   His way is safe and slick;
  He gets out of his trouser-leg
   With a wiggle and a kick.

  "But Orange makes a big to-do;
   Indeed, it is distressing
  To happen by quite suddenly
   And see that lad undressing.

  "He clings to every single rag
   With obstinacy and vim;
  It takes ten fingers and a will
   To part his clothes from him.

  "And when he feels the poor clothes go,
   All raggedy and mussy,
  He sheds an acid tear or two,
   And keeps on being fussy.

  "It's strange how things can differ so!
   To be quite frank and truthful,
  It isn't only things, you know,
   But people, chiefly youthful,

  "Who show these different traits and tricks
   When bedtime hour comes duly--
  Banana-kind and Orange-kind;
   Now which kind are you, truly?"

"Banana-kind!" cried Amos and Ann, as well as they could for laughter.

"Don't be _too_ quick. Don't be Grape-kind," said the Journeying Man.

"Grape-kind?" they echoed.

"And jump out of your skins," said J. M.

At that Amos and Ann laughed so hard that they had to sit down on the
ground. But all at once a clock began to strike fast and furiously. It had
struck a hundred before the children could scramble to their feet.

"Oh, how late it is!" they cried. "Take us home, J. M.!"

  It surely was late when they started home,
  But they took the trail with a laugh,
  Little Ann clinging to Amos's coat,
  And Amos to J. M.'s staff.
  And through the meadows and over the hills,
  Happily up and down,

  With hurry and scurry and skip and hop,
  And talking in verse the live-long time,
  (For they'd got in the habit and couldn't stop,)
  They traveled the scallopy road of Rhyme,
  The wandering road of much renown
  That leads from Zodiac Town.

  They traveled on till they came in sight
  Of a couple of windows shining bright.
  Then J. M. stopped and held up his stick.
  "Yonder's your house," he said. "Be quick!
  I'll count very slowly, but you must be
  As far as the gate by twenty-three;
  And when I have counted twenty-four
  You must be inside the door."

  "Come with us, do!" the children cried,
  But he only shook his head.
  "I can't, for I am a Journeying Man,
  And I must be off," he said.

  Then he started to count--and away at last
  They went on twinkling feet;
  Never did squirrels move more fast,
  Or rabbits run more fleet.
  And just as they touched the latch of the gate,
  They heard, far down in the hush,
  "Twenty-three!" as plain as could be;
  And they scurried through with a rush.

  There on the porch, its covers bent,
  The book with the poem lay.
  They picked it up as they fled through the door
  (Just as the voice called, "Twenty-four!").
  "Why, _this_ wasn't hard!" said they.
  They stared at the poem and hung their heads--
  "Why did we run away?"
  They said to each other, "It seems sometimes
  There really is lots of good in rhymes."

  "Perhaps it would be a very good plan
  To study them more," said wise little Ann.

  And Amos answered: "I'm going to know
  Whole pages up and down,
  Then find J. M., in a hurry, and go
  Straight back to Zodiac Town."

  They fled upstairs like swift little hares,
  And burrowed into their beds,
  With numberless tunes and rhythms and runes
  A-ringing in their heads.
  And they dreamed all night of a scallopy road
  And of clocks with a curious chime,
  And talked in their sleep--and every word
  Was a rhyme, a rhyme, a rhyme!