A Poem For Christmas


“Christmas Card to Grace Hartigan” by Frank O’Hara (1926-1966):

There’s no holly, but there is
the glass and granite towers
and the white stone lions
and the pale violet clouds. And
the great tree of balls in
Rockefeller Plaza is public.

Christmas is green and general
like all great works of the
imagination, swelling from minute
private sentiments in the desert,
a wreath around our intimacy
like children’s voices in a park.

For red there is our blood
which, like your smile, must be
protected from spilling into
generality by secret meanings,
the lipstick of life hidden
in a handbag against violations.

Christmas is the time of cold air
and loud parties and big expense,
but in our hearts flames flicker
answeringly, as on old-fashioned
trees. I would rather the house
burn down than our flames go out.

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(From the Collected Poems of Frank O’Hara © by the University of California Press. Reprinted by permission of the University of California Press. Also reprinted in Christmas Poems © New Directions Publishing Corp. Photo by Flickr user Dominick)