“December Hearth Fires”

By Stephen Butler 2

December Hearth Fires

December was warm where I was born:
the bougainvilleas bled crimson amidst the thorns,
and in the evening hours
the children, the children, walked with naked,
calloused feet upon the gravel roads,
and stopping from gate to gate,
like orioles they huddled,
expectant
for pennies to fall on tiny cupped hands,
from the carols they sang with seraphim voices,
while the hunger raged
unquenchable
beneath their tattered clothes —

December is cold where I have come to stay,
the scarlet berries sparkle upon the glossy leaves,
and in the evening hours
my children, my children, climb up to bed in cotton
nighttime clothes, swept up to heaven’s gate before they sleep,
embraced by love-drenched arms,
but I remember the hungry
angelic faces,
the parched and naked little feet,
their rags of shirts and trousers,
far away
on a warm December night —

I must go back and find
the children, the children,
and bring them to the glowing
hearth fires
of my December.

by D. G. Vachal © 2012

*** Photography by Stephen Butler @Flickr Commons