For Alexandra Smith
So festoon the rooms from memory,
with swags of scented pine from doorways past
and a tall tree from the living room
of the long-ago house on Pinehurst Road.
String colored lights, with childhood's bright big bulbs,
drape tinsel, hang ornaments since shattered --
Gran-nanny's frail frosted pears and peaches,
blown-glass baubles packed away each year
in tissue paper as old as father.
Lay Lionel tracks on the floor and hear --
so clearly across the decades --
the woodwind whine of the locomotive,
the clatter of pressed-tin boxcars on the oval
under the tree. Rebuild the pasteboard town,
the station, church, and snowbound houses,
regrow the wire-trunked pine trees,
needles permanently frosted white,
and stand them beside the tracks,
as mother did when she was a girl.
Set out, on table or sideboard, the vanished crèche
in which Mary and Joseph, wearing
colored robes out of Sunday-school pictures,
again preside by their little manger,
and a cow chews contentedly in the shadow.
Then happily crowd the sofa and the chairs
with the missing and the missed,
grandparents dead a quarter century,
father gone 10 years, Uncle Hi and Aunt Dolly --
rare and jovial Wisconsin visitors --
Nanny laughing, her mind again intact,
trio of great-grandmothers in print dresses.
And clutter the mantle with cards
from friends long lost, grade-school classmates,
college loves, colleagues moved on.
Conjure swirls of snow outside the windows,
drifting under streetlights, decorating branches.
Remember rich scents of hot chocolate
and roasting turkey, the powdered-sugar mess
of grandmother's Russian tea cookies.
Hum choruses and airs from Handel,
verses and descants from carols memorized
for the high-school choir's Christmas concerts.
All this until, in a corner by the glowing tree,
appear the presents -- that first red bike,
the stuffed bear, the books and Matchbox cars
and microscope. What better gifts
than recollections rich as these
to savor through the dark and lonely winter?