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December 21, 2012

Poetry Friday--A Winter Solstice

The winter solstice is a marking of the time when light will begin to return, little by little, leading to its culmination in the summer solstice. For now, in this mid-winter, celebrants light the darkness with fire and candles.

December 13, as you may know, is St. Lucia's Day (Luciadagen) in Sweden, Italy (Lucia was born in Sicily), and other countries. Before the change from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar in 1582, the date of the winter solstice also fell on December 13. It is no coincidence, therefore, that St. Lucia's Day is a celebration marked by lights. It is an example of how Pagan and Christian meld.

The name Lucia (or Lucy) means light or lucidity. St. Lucia (circa 283-304 AD) became the patron saint of those with eye problems and also of glassworkers. The story arose that Lucia, who was blinded, had her sight restored by her faith in God. (Depending on which story, she either plucked her eyes out herself to thwart an unwanted suitor, or, she was tortured by the authorities after a spurned suitor denounced her as a Christian.)

The celebration of St. Lucia's Day in Sweden traditionally begins with a daughter waking her parents and serving them coffee and saffron buns (saffraan broodjes) for breakfast. This child (Lussibrud, which means "Lucy bride") wears a white dress with a red sash, and a crown of greens and lit candles.

with concentration
she carries her head
as if the candles were
not battery powered.

but no martyr, she
will have her share
of sweet buns before
catching the bus.

© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved.

Carl Larsson, "The Feast of St. Lucy on 13th December, 1916."

As a result of the events of last Friday, I found St. Lucy in my thoughts and wrote this, obviously not in the same spirit as the poem above:
The Day After St. Lucy's Day, 2012

Lucy, your holy-day passed
quietly, unnoticed by most,
and the day that followed
put an end to any thoughts
of the forthcoming light.

A crushing, unrelenting
hopelessness fell upon us,
like it must have come upon
you as the judge ordered your
eyes ripped from your skull.

Who was there for you, Lucy,
enduring your screams? Don't
tell me your God! It was
your mother--only she could
look in your face and not recoil.

Your blindness is your faith.
Your faith is your blindness.
If our vision is to be restored
we will need more than light--
we'll need a mother's selflessness.

You're free to pray, Lucy,
but we have mothering to do.

© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved.

18th century oil painting, probably Peruvian, courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Heidi is hosting a special celebration of the solstice and rounding up all the Poetry Friday posts. Visit her at My Juicy Little Universe.


  1. Making sense of the senseless -- eyes plucked out, young lives snuffed out -- is a tall order. Thoughtful words are a start.

  2. Powerful poem, Diane. I can hear the anger there. It's been difficult to see the light this past week, in the face of such tragedy.

  3. May you be a candle to shine light into the darkness. Blessings. Thank you for sharing your powerful poem.

  4. There's a contrast to the two poems - one is a gentle vignette of a little girl, the second is darker statement to a grown woman - and the two work well together. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Thank you dear friends, it is a difficult time for us all, but we will find the light.

  6. I have no words, really, to express the events of that horrible day make me feel.

    Thanks for capturing it in these two poems, Diane.


  7. I can't imagine how much worse it is for a teacher to deal with!

  8. Thank you, Diane. Innocence and righteous anger. Your poems are well-paired. May we create room for more light in this world.

  9. Wow. Thinking about Dec. 14, 2012 as the day after St. Lucia's Day is quite the contrast. I agree:

    "If our vision is to be restored
    we will need more than light--"

  10. Thanks Joyce and Mary Lee!

    We have a lot of work to do in the near future.

  11. What an example of poetry talking back to life! Your knowledge of the St. Lucia story, combined with events in the news birthed a powerful response! I am reminded of a favorite poem of mine by David Waltner-Toews, "The Ecology of Poetry" and these lines:

    "The days of throwing out are over.
    The world's already littered with our junk--
    personal anger, revenge, passions made over...
    ...But if you just keep them in
    you'll rot along with them, a confused heap
    of smelly memories...

    The compost heap is singing.
    If I don't sing along it will drive me insane"

  12. If I don't sing along it will drive me insane

    What a powerful snippet! Thanks for introducing us to the poem, Violet!