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Christmas Day

Ireland’s 100 favourite poems

Christmas Day by Paul Durcan is a popular Irish poem. It was voted as one of the country’s favourite in 1999 by readers of the Irish Times.

Christmas Day by Paul Durcan. Image copyright Ireland Calling

Christmas Day

There was a young widow in black
In Glasnevin Cemetery. I heard her
Before I saw her – the tapping
On the tarmacadam of her high heels.
I spun around and I saw her
Hurdling towards me across the headstones,
Her yellow hair tucked into her black suede jacket,
Her blue mini-skirt more daring than a fig leaf,
The white ponies of her teeth
Riding red lipstick.
As we were about to pass
We stopped and stared
And she smiled and I gazed
Into the waterfall of her eyes
Waiting for it to stop
Thinking that she was a clock
But she was not a clock –
She was a woman,
A preoccupied soul.
Is there a role
For my twenty-three-year-old son?
She said: ‘Have you got the time?’
I said: ‘It is three o’clock.’
She said – as if I had invented time –
With dismay: ‘Is it three o’clock?’
And I wanted to change my mind and say
That there was no time today,
That Christmas Day is a timeless day.
Instead I repeated: ‘It is three o’clock’
And she walked on out of my life
Up the aisle under the yews
Towards the Parnell altar stone.
When she was out of earshot I said to her:
‘May I hold your hand?’

The worst thing about loneliness
Is not loneliness.
The worst thing about loneliness
Is selfishness:
The savagery of selfishness.

Why do computer programmers always answer
When asked in questionnaires
In Sunday newspapers
What is your idea of Heaven? –
Snorkelling in Acapulco.
Why do they never say
What I would say?
My idea of Heaven as a man
Is to be lying on my back
Smiling up into the eyes of a woman,
Her face latticed by her hair,
Her shoulders braced
As she squats in her starting blocks.
She leaps out of her blocks
To race 100 metres
Over low hurdles
In 10.8 seconds
While I lie under her
Clinging to her
And she spits on my shoulder –
There! –
And whinnies and dozes
And then she straightens the pillows
And the blankets, folds me up,
All my parts,
And puts me away in her violin case
Until the next time she decides
To go to hounds and cross over the river
To the other side.

Christmas Day is not as good as Good Friday.
Which would you prefer to be able to say:
Happy Christmas or Good Friday?
On Christmas Day man is born
But on Good Friday
Man goes one better – man dies
For his woman!
The ethical kiss!
Christmas Day is Happy
But Good Friday is Good.

Christmas Day by Paul Durcan. Image copyright Ireland Calling

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