Like evolution the Christmas card list,
no dramatic change, just the drop
of a name or a change of places,
a slight acquaintance upped to friend,
a cast-off aunt or mother-in-law’s
ex-lover tippexed to rest.
It’s the survival of the fittest,
of those whose warmth outlasts
a year or two or three then sifts
the heart’s strata from limestone
to silence. I knit the geology
of love, add three, slip two – each
Christmas it’s the same, a list of names
like thoughts for a christening.
About this poem
This poem was included in Best Scottish Poems 2006. Best Scottish Poems is an online publication, consisting of 20 poems chosen by a different editor each year, with comments by the editor and poets. It provides a personal overview of a year of Scottish poetry. The editor in 2006 was Janice Galloway.
Diana Hendry's poetry has a wonderful sense of the author's voice, dark and bitterly sweet at the same time, like high-grade chocolate. This one is deceptively light.
Every year I make a Christmas card list. I keep the lists from previous years and so I begin by looking at last year's list or the list of five years ago. It makes me reflect on changed relationships. There are those I've lost touch with, one or two have died, some have stayed on the list for years and years even though I never see them. And so on the new list, some people are crossed out and others – new friends – have been added. I suppose the writing of the list acts as a kind of emotional assessment. And when it's done, I look at the names and have a sense of renewal - hence the last line of the poem.
In recent years, my partner, Hamish Whyte and I have written our own Christmas card poem. We decided to put these together in the pamphlet Green Fire and Bright Hopes and add others we'd each written.