The Good Humbug’s Guide presents ‘ Private Notes on a Christmas play. Into the woods. For two lovers and a bird.’ By Astra Bloom

We: Disappear through Advent calendar door 21, Winter Solstice.

Leave behind mulled wine, madness-buying, Good King Wenceslas.

Follow a tall reindeer with our future in her snow melt-eyes,

till arrive honey-plum-light evergreen-place. Make woodland shambles camp.

Tall pine walls, twisted root bed, mistletoe lamps, fir and ivy trim blankets.

Peace. Escape. End. Begin again. Be lost. Be born. Be dead again.

It: Coocoorumblecoocoo. Sky is vole fur this dusk. If my beak is sharp enough. I will cut a hole. Fly elsewhere like other birds.

We: Be spit-and-muck-mitten-off-kids, long-night-foragers, hot-coal-cheeks snot-baby-faces.

We: Rhyme partridges for luck, mathematic robins to a sticking sort of courage.

We: Hare across frost to a strongly Joni Mitchell away-other-away-other-river.

You: Dive naked into smashed-silver of the on-on-eternal-go. Skin blood-broke,

blue duck egg-bollocks, teeth-chatter a sub zero thing re Christmases before me.

Me: Hush and rub, hush and rub you to a glow-sugarplum. Cut soul to something larger, more 70’s. Cut soles to ribbons on river bed brown ale bottle glass. (Guilt?)

You: Suck my sweet satsuma wounds. Get tipsy on my rich pudding heart. (Guilt?)

We: Bond in our December flesh, shimmer-trout selfish, wet, free. (No more Guilt)

We: Splash around stupid splash around little donkeys. (No more Guilt)

We: Dry hot, huddled in your cat-stink-parka, my hippy sheepskin.

We: Conjure white-red Saint Nick-fire to blacken bread, explode sausages.

Me: Spot out of season white lilies like stars climbing heavenwards.

We: Argue -( loud n fast)

“They are pulled by the moon!” “No! They’re pushed by the earth!”

We: Laugh till piss selves.

Me: Eat ant-jam from jar.

You: Strum un-jolly-elf tune on guitar.

Me: Dance in the navy night firelight.

We: See moon a shark fin. A fairy ship coming in. A crown. A pale dove wing.

Me: Let hair wild-free.

You: Tremble. Till you remember tongue, remember singing, sing.

We: Spy a ghostly wood pigeon off its oak king. Descending blinded bird.

It: O, I fall like weather into your flames.

It: I burn, I’m burning.

We: Weep. Weep pretty, weep deep. To see a bird’s colours so mauve-grey-shimmer-green. To know nothing is perfect. Even wing-things

get dazzled, want to swallow the sun. Will die for love. To know it flew into our fire.

Me: Say We should posh-supper it tonight – Honour its Life.

It: I am feathers splayed and black, a dark night bloom I died.

You: Be shocked. Be sick at red ball-of-socks-breast. See nothing holy or edible. Feel spiritless.

We: Go a little shipwreck, a little Herod, a little no room at the inn, hearts flooding, a’shiver with feelings.What if it had babies? Where was its nest?

Me: Think of heavy wooden doors. Think of a heavy wooden cross. Lie on ground, look up at universe in the season of kindness-marvellous-cheer-mirth-loss.

We: Find no stars. No guide. Only sky coming down on us. Know signs.

Know Time is unpacking her cases and we are the light things – silk scarf, map –

thrown in before the lid shut. Last in, first out. Know we are brief.

We: Shout. Shout. Shout our death out.

We: See delusion scuttle off in a hedgehog all spike n bluff.

Sniff sniff kiss kiss you me we us it.

Me: Spy World coming. Nets. Guns. Jobs. Diaries.

We: Hidey-ho. Lay low. Lay close in badger-undergrowth.

You: Breath. In. Out. Fear. Love. Your dear near nose so white envelope edge. Your eyes my best Douglas Fir-green Christmas of 93.

Me: Say They must never find us.

You: Call us A wicked pagan and her savage.

We:Get lost harder. Get lost deeper and forgotten more.

We: Be Low beetles. High new gods. Sick little pair of turtle doves.

Joyous. Unfestive. Terribly terribly holy. Safe.

We: Fuck! Mate, mate before it’s too late.

We: Teach the rabbits!

We: Blushen rude forest gnomes.

We: Pop-thunder purple clouds of purple snow..

Me: Birth not babies, but 5 gloss toadstools.

We: Make a fairy ring. Make many. Be totally old-yule, so un-nativity

We: Never leave Mother Earth Father Sky Sister Water Brother Fire.

We: Be exiles, wild-hermit-loves.

You: So clever, teach me forever.

Me: Wolf-bad, keep us tight to the bones of time.

We: Play: open, bright, holly and ivy, stars and babies. Wise children, mothers and kings. Animals, truth, snow flakes falling.

We: In The End. Eat each other. Be a feast to end feasts.

It: Be a Halleluja in winter in dreams in darkness.

Astra Bloom writes all sorts. Her complicated feelings about Christmas are soothed by trees.
She won the Bare Fiction poetry prize, came second in the Brighton short story prize and made Sussex short story and flash winner. She’s been shortlisted by Bridport short story prize, Live Canon Poetry and had two novels longlisted by Mslexia novel award. Astra’s work has been featured as For Books Sake weekend read, she is one of 16 new writers selected for the Common People, an anthology of working class writing by Kit De Waal and she took part in Penguin Random House Write Now Live 2018 event. She has writing in Magma, Under the Radar, and on line at Visual Verse and Burning House Press.

Author: Carmen Marcus

As the daughter of a Yorkshire Fisherman and Irish Mother, my writing brings together the visceral and the magical. My debut novel #How Saints Die was published with Harvill Secker in 2017. It won New Writing North's Northern Promise Award as a work in progress and was longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize in 2018. My poetry has been commissioned by BBC Radio, The Royal Festival Hall and Durham Book Festival. As a child of an 80s council estate I am an advocate for working class writers and stories. I’m currently working on my first poetry collection The Book of Godless Verse and my next novel. I try to live up to the words of my first critic and primary school teacher ‘weird minus one house point.’

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