Picturing a World
An Edwardian Christmas by John S. Goodall is a gentle treat, an indulgence in nostalgia that can surely be forgiven in unsettling times. I bought a used copy a few years ago and happily turn its wordless pages every December.
For this and other images from the book, click here.
And Merry Christmas! Read More
I was looking for a seasonal image and found this “Christmas gifts” issue of Vogue for 1918. A hundred years later, it reminds us of the joyous and tattered end of World War I. And it’s by an American woman artist! Helen Dryden. Born in Baltimore in 1882, she moved to New York in 1909 to sell artwork to magazines—just about the time that ANONYMITY’s Mattie would have known her. Perfect. Read More
Website alert: The American Antiquarian Society has posted a digitized version of a recent donation—a copy of the first illustrated, book-length edition of Clement Moore’s poem, A Visit from Saint Nicholas, published in 1848. The interior of the house is depicted as furnished more sparely than we have grown accustomed to seeing it, and the Santa Claus clearly predates the Norman Rockwell—Coca-Cola version! I wonder whether looking at this version might prompt a 21st C writer to a new response to the old favorite? Read More
Midwives at the Manger
I don’t care who the father was,
The girl could not give birth alone.
So young, both of them.
Shepherds might have known what to do;
They assist their ewes at lambing time;
But they came later.
No, the carpenter begged for a midwife,
And the innkeeper sent for me, Zebel.
I brought Salome along.
(We did have names, but forget
Anything you’ve heard about a withered hand.)
We arrived by starlight,
Angels up in the rafters,
Otherwise a normal birth: pain,
Blood, squalling baby, a bath afterward.
An easier labor than most, I admit,
As though the child would spare his mother then
Behind the manger where I laid him down, swaddled,
A sweet-breathed ox and ass who came in when we did
Were allowed to stay. For millennia.
Only we departed, Salome and me.
All the same, we had been there, were there, are there,
Midwives to transcendence.
© 2017 by Katherine Keenum. All rights reserved
For Giotto’s splendid Nativity with angels in the rafters and the midwives, click here. Read More
Old Christmas comes, to close the waned year,
And aye the shepherd's heart to make right glad;
Who, when his teeming flocks are homeward had,
To blazing hearth repairs, and nut-brown beer;
And views, well pleased, the ruddy prattlers dear
Hug the grey mongrel …
Hearth, gentle light, loved ones, and the wonder of new interests be yours this Christmas Eve. Read More