Friday, September 8, 2023

Salvation Army Band

Fifth Avenue is festooned in Yuletide oompah
and shades of unpolished brass, faded blue swaddling and epaulets.
The soldiers on the front line of heavenly peace have thinned,

and joyous exhalations, streams of vapor, were once angelic wings.
Copper coins drop into the red kettle like so many bits of hale.
Old men and women wheeze into trumpets while the bass drum

fires a friendly shot of holiday cheer on the downbeat.
There’s the rub. The street corner is always going under
because the ragtag army has little ammunition.

Once again, Good King Wenceslas, fat as Santa Claus,
dines with meager winter fuel on the feast of Stephen.
Sunshine paints the intersection with yellow satin ribbons

until the mournful gray evening sweeps the street,
pushing the babe across pavement until it is tucked away
a thousand miles from the minds of men,

from demons in wool overcoats racing by the French horn
while ripping notes from the clef of military comfort and joy.
Bright lights die in the wake of dark zephyrs, Christmas past.

Noel, noel.
The manger on display begins to sink, wise men falling from the deck
while the band plays “Nearer My God to Thee.”

~William Hammett

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