The Christmas Sled


. . . for the World is both a Paradise and a Prison

                                     to different persons.—Thomas Traherne

A blizzard more than fifty years ago.
Wind-gusted snow took its sweet time to fall,
Twenty-nine hours from start to stop. Snow shock.
Cars sideways, stuck. People cut off from home,
Stranded. Unhurryable shoveling.
Troubles that didn’t matter to a boy,
Whose school had closed, who flew his Christmas sled
From hilltop down to the bottom of the hill—
Again, again—mid-morning until dark.

Snow blanketed the world, leaving it blank,
Putting in play the way things always are.
What kept you on your sled while cold crept in—
Being no help to anyone, alone
(Two brothers and two cousins gone by lunchtime),
Bright early afternoon turned early dusk,
Snow smuggling cold inside your boots and gloves?
The muffled day stayed still, cold air grew colder—
Beneath your sled, snow ice-like, harder packed.

The hill stood in a little woods, and you
Got good at steering that two-runner sled
Through trees—flat on your stomach, face to front,
Arms reaching, hands working the steering bar—
To come as close as possible to trees
To carve as straight a course as possible
To sail down at impossible speeds, each time
Aiming for closer, straighter, faster—playing—
Using your gift with nothing more in mind.

Charles Hughes

Charles Hughes is the author of two poetry collections, The Evening Sky (forthcoming from Wiseblood Books in 2020) and Cave Art (Wiseblood Books 2014). His poems have appeared in the Alabama Literary Review, The Christian Century, the Iron Horse Literary Review, Literary Matters, Measure, the Saint Katherine Review, the Sewanee Theological Review, Think Journal, and elsewhere. He worked as a lawyer for thirty-three years before his retirement and lives with his wife in the Chicago area.

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