A few days of Christmas #2

Continuing my favourites from sixteen years of ephemera I’ve written in Christmas cards.  This was from 2006 and was dedicated to Dana and Eric.

Three Gifts

Three gifts from a princess, brave and true

One with a  feather’s form, one like a shoe

One for the tree of such a worthy one as you

Dark was the night when the princess fled

The house of an uncle who wanted her dead

Leaving in the snow her bloody footprints red

Loud were hounds who pattered on her track

Silky soft the voice of uncle, crying for her lack

On she pressed, though out of breath, and never looked back

White was the wind, then, and colder than a stone

Evil were the promises that chilled her to the bone

Hers, hers the only life that kept him from the throne

Gold was the gleam on her heavy, heavy crown

And still was the night when she stumbled into town

Where people shivered, closed their doors and locked them with a frown

Lost was her voice as she called for aid

Closed were the people’s hearts, and no attention paid

They knew the uncle’s madness and were sore afraid

That’s when your father woke up in the night

And your mother started up with half a heart of fright

And you, then, who’d heard it all, knew you’d make it right

Up, said your mother, work is to be done

Up, said your father, soup and bread for one

Up, said your own voice, this house will not shun

Yours was the hand then that opened up the door

Yours was the little boat that rested up the shore

And yours was the willing arm that wrestled with the oar

But first came your father, and listened to her tale

He knew the uncle’s madness and the princess must not fail

“Loyalists,” he guided you, “and never use a sail.”

But first came your mother, and brought a cup of clay

Drop your royal blood in here, and never drip astray

Now open up the stables, John, and saddle me the dray

So off went your mother, to lead the dogs a chase

And back stayed your father, to slow the hunter’s pace

And on you took the princess, like the leader in a race

Fast came the hunters then, and found your father’s home

Armed with swords and treachery, but he was there alone

They took his hands, put out his eyes, but silent as a stone.

A feather for his silence, that never spoke a word

But then the bloodhounds’ voices were all the hunters heard

A trail of blood led up the coast, again the hunt was stirred

A shoe for your mother, then, who led the hunt afar

Who knew she would be lucky to escape with just a scar

Who dripped the blood and gulled the hounds until the morning star

They caught her on a mountainside; she wore the royal ring

They set the hounds and thought they’d found the daughter of the king

They tore her then until no one could recognize a thing

And all that time your rowed the princess up the wintered coast

Of all the errands, deep you knew that your one mattered most

To ferry her beyond the reach of traitor-uncle’s host

The wolf-howl winds and shrugging waves both rocked your humble craft

Stinging sleet upon you beat and screamed that you were daft

But faced with winds and waves and sleet you shook your head and laughed

The vision fades, for ten full years have passed since that long night

The loyal army took you in and bowed to royal right

A war declared, they gave you sword, and sent you out to fight

Two battles came, three fingers went, the right side won you’d guess

Though hard to tell which uniform was which amid the mess

And at your worst you sometimes cursed this royal game of chess

The princess made a goodly queen, if queens are what you wish

And you have never wanted for some meat upon your dish

In winter months, you mend old boats; in summer months you fish

Your old blind father sits about and tells his tale to all

Of how your family would not sleep and heard the royal call

You nod and smile as every telling makes the tale more tall

And now have you woken upon the solstice day

And all about your addled head, these darkling visions play

Dreams of hunts and royal words and cups of bloody clay

You hadn’t thought of it for months, but this, the very date

There beneath the gifting tree three gold-wrapped presents wait

A queen’s reward, ten years agone for taking hand in fate

A feather gold for father’s silence, never broke or bent

A diamond shoe for mother’s errand and her blood then spent

And you, for the years of sadness, long inside you pent?

What can a ruler give as worthy one as you?

Can anything from queens reward a peasant brave and true?

Can gold or diamonds buy you back the world your childhood knew?

The final gift, on little thought, upon the fire you set

What all it is, there’s little good that you from queen can get

She sends it once a year, and you have never opened yet

You can’t regret, as some might think, the deed you did that night

What count the cost, that uncle would have set the land alight

The lesser of two ills was all – not rule by royal right.

You help your father up from bed, then watch the present burn

Whatever gold or silver thing, it was not yours to earn

You warm yourself and shake the past, and to your work you turn.

Three gifts from a princess, brave and true

One with a  feather’s form, one like a shoe

One for the tree of such a worthy one as you

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About davidlomax

Writer, teacher, husband, dad. Geek from way back. Author of the totally pre-orderable Backward Glass, out in October 2013 from Flux Books (http://goo.gl/4FOM2). View all posts by davidlomax

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