December Comes with Cold and Light

Monday Morning Musings:

“Thus having prepared their buds

against a sure winter

the wise trees

stand sleeping in the cold.”

–From William Carlos Williams, “Winter Trees”

The first of December is mostly grey,

but not so cold—winter held at bay


for a while, but we smile to see the glow–

the sun on remaining leaves of trees slow

Philadelphia Parkway, December 2018

to sleep in winter’s arms,

and we walk to see the city’s charms


even in the bleakness of late fall—

almost winter—some magic calls


there, Diana shines atop the stairs

gilded anew, she seems aware

Diana, Philadelphia Museum of Art

of her strength, though she charms–

with arrow frozen in her arms


goddess of the hunt,

a moment, centered, upfront


there, I greet her like a friend

each time I visit, happy to see her send


(not the arrow), no never,

but she seems much too clever


to harm–such determination in her face–

perhaps she could send us hope and grace


we see dolls reflecting the passion

for both play and fashion


the bisque baby catches my eye

or the phrase captures my ear, why?

it sounds funny to me,

and so, we wander and see


a sibyl and monuments and Eve

through museum and streets, we weave

our way, and see the sights,

some Christmas lights,


drink mulled wine

feeling fine—then laugh to see that sign

we walk back and down the hill

where no joggers jog, all is still


except the duck, who with quack and flap

jumps into the river—a slight slap—


against the surface, he swims

the sound, a chorus, a winter hymn


before the start of winter rain

with sun gone, shadows come again


bringing a misty afternoon twilight,

yes, this is December’s light.


Then Hanukkah comes with candle light

to bring us wonder and delight


I fry latkes in a pan

listening to a man


discuss his life

some of the strife


escaping the Holocaust

in Kindertransport, crossed


to Sweden, his stuffed monkey with him*

the object now brings some joy, an era dimmed


by tragedy and time—family reunited

evil not forgotten or righted


exactly, but comforting to know

that helpers were there, not so long ago


and still, that there are people who did good

and do it still, do what they can, should and could


and so, we light the candles on this first night

eat latkes and smile at the sight



of them burning till the flames die,

watch them belie


the darkness of night and soul

as believing in miracles makes us whole


more perhaps than what we seem–

the sum of what we hope and dream.


First Night of Hanukkah, December 2018


Hanukkah seems both more poignant and more important to celebrate this year.

I think I shared this story before from a previous All Things Considered segment, but Michel Martin interviewed Uri and Gert Beliner again last night.

We visited the Philadelphia Museum of Art during the members’ weekend and the Christmas Village.

40 thoughts on “December Comes with Cold and Light

  1. I liked the way you featured the feminine aspects of the museum. I especially love the beauty in Diana’s sculpture! The lighting was captured so wondrously by you, Merril. I hope you and your family have a special Hanukkah. As Marian expressed, “May the light of the candles be spread throughout our world.”

    • Thank you, Robin! If you ever come to Philadelphia, we will go to the museum. There’s more to it than the “Rocky Steps.” 🙂 There’s a Calder mobile hanging across from Diana–she probably watches it. They had the holiday lighting there. A couple of years ago we were there before Halloween, and they had Day of the Dead decorations around her.

  2. Just to be different, I’ll say Happy Chanukah! 😉
    Wonderful recap of your week, told in beautiful poetry.
    I’ll have a plateful of latkes, please 😉

  3. Happy Hanukkah, Merril! We partied early for Hanukkah because that’s when son and DIL could come visit. We had such a good time! My son makes the brisket and latkes every year, and I love that part almost the best!

  4. Happy Hanukkah, Merril. I so love these musings that meander your neighborhood and home. I’ve said before your words, your poetry make me feel as if I were alongside you. And I really wish I had been because those latkes look great 😉

  5. Happy Hanukka, Merril, to you and your family. I am drooling over the latkes (my keyboard probably doesn’t appreciate that). I really do need to get back to Philadelphia. I’d love to visit the art museum again. I’m sure I haven’t seen half of what’s in there.

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