“A Christmas Poem” by Robert Bly

Christmas is a place, like Jackson Hole, where we all
agree
To meet once a year. It has water, and grass for
horses;
All the fur traders can come in. We visited the place
As children, but we never heard the good stories.

Those stories only get told in the big tents, late
At night, when a trapper who has been caught
In his own trap, held down in icy water, talks; and a
man
With a ponytail and a limp comes in from the edge of
the fire.

As children, we knew there was more to it—
Why some men got drunk on Christmas Eve
Wasn’t explained, nor why we were so often
Near tears nor why the stars came down so close,

Why so much was lost. Those men and women
Who had died in wars started by others,
Did they come that night? Is that why the Christmas
tree
Trembled just before we opened the presents?

There was something about angels. Angels we
Have heard on high Sweetly singing o’er
The plain
. The angels were certain. But we could not
Be certain whether our family was worthy tonight.

“A Christmas Poem” by Robert Bly from Morning Poems. © Harper Collins.