My grandmother was asked as a young woman
by her young son:
What do you want for Christmas
besides world peace?
The anecdote survived for decades in my family.
Tonight I realize it said more about her
than I had seen:
she was born just after the First World War,
her Cold War Catholic parenting
was unafraid of the Red menace—
she didn’t want to frighten her children
about the Communists,
she had been able to vote,
she had made something,
call it a difference.
there are many brief
hues to it—
My grandmother would carefully select
with the appropriate words for the recipient and occasion.
I defended Hallmark for this reason—
without the detail that this was my grandmother,
she was a possible person in my comment—
I defended Hallmark to my literature teacher in college
and he said, with a laugh,
“If you have to rely on Hallmark, you’re in trouble.”
My son’s world history teacher showed his class
a Hallmark movie today at the end of the semester,
and she told them all that
she and her husband love to watch Hallmark movies together.
We laughed at them afterwards in my son’s room,
gentle, brief, slightly sad laughter.
And I walked in the cold darkness of December tonight
and prayer graced me
and language itself died like night at the dawn
and was reborn in the unspeakable pain of the dying.
I am proud
of the dark houses,
Letter against Anger to the Daughters of George Hoshida
Begin with the beauty of smallness:
on the evening of the convergence,
on the longest night of the year,
winter solstice, my children and wife looked for the bright planets
coming together, joining,
and they could not find them in the dark winter sky.
The vastness of the universe has for decades
seemed to me annihilating,
the dark everywhere around us—
so that meaning would become as if it never was
if I thought about that emptiness for too long.
But tonight I discovered how small I am,
my loves and worries,
and realized that it is, despite this, more than nothing, my life,
my family and my home, my being,
my human body and soul,
truly small though I am in the winter solstice of space.
Your father had every reason to be enraged,
imprisoned as he was simply for being Japanese in Hawaii—
losing his oldest daughter from whom he was separated—
and through it all
he kept drawing,
mostly human figures,
as he had been taught by correspondence school,
often three of them sharing a loose-leaf page—
maybe there was a rageful healing thoroughness there,
assembling families of separate figures again and again,
like laughter occupying each body
until its independence was complete.
Brian Glaser has published three books of poems and many essays on poetry and poetics.