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The Night of the Katzen

One year at the North Pole, the flu
took down most of St. Nick’s faithful crew;
all the reindeer and elves
and the Clauses themselves—
poor old Nick didn’t know what to do.

So while sick in their beds side by side,
he confided that they must decide
how he’d gather his strength
and rise up to full length
to prepare for his annual ride,

for there’s no pause for Claus when he’s ill,
and he couldn’t take meds or a pill;
he cannot afford,
once the toys are onboard,
using something that might numb his skill.

He felt sure he could still load his sleigh
without help, just like back in the day,
but their feverish brains
knew it took more than reins
for a hardy “Heave-Ho and Away!”

But for now, with the elves tucked away,
the cats all had free reign to play.
Climbing trees, batting toys
made for good girls and boys—
there was mayhem all night and all day.

And that’s when “The Great Aha!” came;
that fortuitous time in the game
when the end seems so near
you find courage, not fear,
and strike forth into fame or in flame.

But what could have brought him such hope
at time when his body said, “Nope”?
’Twas a loud jingling bell
as some ornaments fell
when the cats grabbed a long popcorn rope.

Have you ever tried leashing a cat?
It’s like trying to saddle a bat,
for they’d much rather snuggle
or have a good tuggle
then drop you on someone’s doormat.

It would take at least two or three dozen;
every mother, son, sister, and cousin.
(He’d forgo the pet rats;
they were just too ersatz.)
That Aha! kept his poor head a’buzzin.

They were house-cats, and most of them purred
when attention was what they preferred.
Although some stayed aloof,
others scratched with each hoof.
Frequent catnaps meant progress deferred.

But to form two or more in a line
was like putting grapes back on the vine,
or unbaking a cake,
or like staying awake
once you’ve finished the song, “Auld Lang Syne.”

Even herding them into a group
was like carving a statue from soup.
Very much like the notion
of painting the ocean,
or drawing a straight loop-de-loop.

And because Nick knows how to speak cat,
they would ask, “Am I pretty–or fat?”
or they’d tell some old jokes
that would bore young cat folks
or sing songs in their kitty chit-chat.

Far too kind to tie strings to their tails
or tie wings to their front legs as sails,
Nick is one of the kind
who proves genius of mind
over matter (let’s hope) still prevails.

So you wonder, just what did he do?
To be honest, I wish that I knew,
but they got the job done
long before twelve-o-one,
and he proved that his cats can fly, too.

In the end, I’ll admit that this story
doesn’t have some obscure allegory,
so there’s no use in gleaning
to find any meaning
but fun in this grand oratory.

And I hope, after bending your ear,
that you’ll share this with those who are near,
and with all who enjoy
their own young girl or boy
who resides in a heart full of cheer.

  Ken Gosse __

The Tingling of the Sell,
or Marley's Visit to Bartleby

A man who rings a bell to sell
his roasted chestnuts, loved so well,
will very often share this story
of a jingly, tingly bell,

so when he strikes a puckish pose,
you’ll hear a scary tale he knows
(although, perhaps, it’s not as deep
as Poe’s astounding prose).

One very dark and stormy night,
an eve when fantasies took flight,
while he was roasting chestnuts
by his hot and fiery light,

just as he does each winter’s eve
for all the townsfolk, who’ll relieve
their cold hands and their appetites
before they’d take their leave;

at midnight, in the moonlight’s cream,
a vision, or perchance a dream,
did visit on that longest night
of winter’s dark’ning stream.

To his amazement ’peared a friend
whose health, long-past, had failed to mend,
and so, in death, they both had thought
their partnership met end.

Of course, he thought, a roasted nut
had gang agley within his gut,
much like the time three well-known ghosts
made voyage to Scrooge’s hut.

Although he knew the face quite well,
the name of Yorick rang a bell,
but that’s another ghostly tale
which other nights he’ll tell.

But now, his Marley had appeared;
a patron whom he’d not endeared.
“Great Caesar’s Ghost!” the specter said
with each step as it neared.

Spoke he, “When you were just a tot,
you AND your nose were full of snot,
and it was I who wiped you clean.
An orphan, were you not?”

“But when I gave you work to do
with salary enough for two,
Oh, wretched ingrate, your response?
‘I would prefer not to.’”

“Yet you refused to leave my shop
and stayed long after, though I’d stop
and lock the door and headed for
the tavern for a drop.”

“When I returned by early morn,
not having moved, you sat forlorn,
and so I rightly kicked you out,
although my heart was torn.”

“Now here you are. To make ends meet,
you sell your nuts upon the street.
A jingling bell to help you sell
warm chestnuts, soft and sweet.”

I boldly told him, “It’s not dire.
I’m loath to set the world on fire,
but here, my nuts are toasty warm,
and that’s my heart’s desire.”

“And every time I hear a jingle,
see the people come and mingle,
it’s not bells, but silver coins
which cause my ears to tingle.”

Said I, “Be off! You don’t look well—
first buy some nuts to eat in Hell.
You see, the sound that haunts my ears
is sell, sell, Sell, Sell, SELL!”

And as he took leave to return
to netherworlds or to his urn,
dour faced, he bade me this farewell:
“I hope your nuts ne’er burn.”

  Ken Gosse__

Meditation Under Bombs
            ©Dr. Francesca Dharmakan Bremner: Meditation Under Bombs

Prince Nicholas and the Pauper

’Twas a dark, stormy night ’fore the day of my birth,
while Mamá, cold and hungry, was wand’ring the Earth.
Her stockings hung loose, full of holes, worse for wear,
and she hoped some kind Saint would soon notice her there.

As she begged door to door, often told not to grouse
(my Papá died and left her without home or spouse),
she sought a warm place to deliver this elf;
still safe, warm inside her, I’d soon show myself.

Her footsteps left prints on the new-fallen snow;
they showed where she’d been but told not where to go.
Her clothes were in tatters, she had but one blouse,
and not enough food to feed even a mouse.

She paused by an inn for she’d heard the old story:
ten minutes of fame became legend and glory.
The innkeeper offered his barn, “for a fee,”
so that wasn’t the place—not for her, not for me.

But obstacles never deterred her bright eye,
and her mind, like a hurricane, took to the sky.
She soon found a sleigh out behind an old shed
and a bag full of hay she fluffed into a bed.

And then, in a twinkling, before she turned ’round,
though dressed in no furs, I arrived with a bound!
But a wink of her eye and a nod of her head
soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

“His eyes, how they twinkle! His dimples, how merry!
His cheeks glow like roses; cold nose like a cherry.
He has a broad face and a little round belly
so empty and cold that it shivers like jelly.”

She whispered these words while pursuing her duty;
to love and to nurture this new-foundling beauty.
No long winter’s nap—she must suckle this lad.
I’m sure that’s the best night that I’ve ever had.

But we couldn’t nestle all snug in warm beds—
no visions of sugar-plums danced in our heads.
Mamá in the sleigh held me close in a sack,
and at least for one night I had nothing to lack.

As the sun rises late on a cold winter’s day,
so Mamá, when she woke, quickly sprang from the sleigh,
but she paused, with her fingers alongside my face,
and said, with a nod and a voice full of grace,
’ere resuming her search for relief from our plight,
“Happy birthday to us! What a wonderful night!”


There’s barely a trace of Nick’s story but these.
Part II, “Life’s a Humbug,” had caused such unease
that the editors of all the weekly gazettes
were harangued by their readers with outrageous threats.

Though we wait for the outcome of Nick’s life empory
(ne’er told in Paul Harvey’s “The Rest of the Story”),
we fear, as the sergeant from Penzance would say:
“Well, it’s too late, now!”
Perhaps, someday, we may.

  Ken Gosse__


Who’m I If Not Me?

If I write yours, then I am you.
If you write mine, then I am two.
That’s surely not what we should do
for I’m sure I’d obscure the view
intended. You might be offended
and your readers seek amended
poetry from you, not me,
that’s written how it’s s’posed to be;
but otherhanded, should you choose
attempts to write while in my shoes,
our readers all are sure to lose
their confidence and doubt your views,
and some might even write reviews
quite raving (although not good news),
the paving of a downhill road
in hopes, perhaps, that they might goad
good sense upon our backs, the load
enabling our return, by measure,
to that richer, fuller treasure
when you’ve writ what you should write
and my words come from my insight.

“Vive la différence!” wise Greeks say
(when speaking French) for we know they,
like Germans, Turks, Italians, too,
learn languages in their purview
where borders tangle one-another,
severing each one from the other,
though their accents might lead you
to hear the meanings with a view
that makes some phrases sound askew—
so sometimes should we not eschew
the use of foreign phrases, fraught
with accidental accents caught
upon our tongues and feeble ears
which bring us pained or laugh-filled tears
across the years as we read verses
(most fulfill us—some need hearses)
that growing hordes of would-be bards
have tossed about; some great with shards
which cut to quick twixt meat and bone,
but others, better left alone
which should be ashed or cemeteried,
words which better had not married
thoughts to pen then ink to paper,
lacking even dullest rapier, unfit
to fulfill their caper, out of wit
and not a bit of beauty or of soulfulness …
But clearly, you see, I digress;
these aren’t the words which you’d confess
and write, unless, of course, you’re me—
then I’d ask you,
“Who might I be?”

  Ken Gosse__