Martin Newell Mulled Rhyme header image

Readers may have noticed that Martin Newell (a.k.a. The Cleaners from Venus) is one of my favorite artists. Some years back, he and I began a Christmas tradition on his website’s message boards of creating an online advent calendar, each day revealing a picture of a person, item, or theme of importance to him. He’d handle the curation, with suggestions from other message board users, and I’d handle the Photoshop and image-hosting.

This year for the occasion he unearthed a seasonal poem he’d written in 2007 in the form of an advent calendar. He chose images befitting each of the 24 verses while I designed the text; we released the images daily, also seaming them together as we went, ultimately forming a long vertical scroll. The final product is presented here for your holiday cheer. (The poem’s full text, sans images, can be found at the end of the post.)


Mulled Rhyme, an advent calendar Christmas poem by Martin Newell

Mulled Rhyme

1) Light the coals of long-lost Christmas
Warm the place for heaven’s sake
Morning frost will starch the willows
Freeze the broken-reeded lake
Dust the fields like coffee cake

2) Stud the orange sun with cloves
Hang it in the mulling sky
Heat the pan of days, and slowly
Let the hours liquify
Lest their flavours pass you by

3) Call the fleet of clouds to harbour
From the tattered sails of night
Admiral Sun to look them over
Pale Midshipman Moon in sight
Lashed to wheel in milky light

4) Flag the mallards down the river
Now the wild-eyed storm has gone
And the herons wait like pages
With a winter fly-past on
Heralding a whooper swan

5) In the woods in wintry weather
Sipping at the season’s lees
Ivy-flower, mud and feather
Ancient dreys in spindly trees
Seen on dwindling days as these

6) Scrawling cards, in some spare minute
Foxed address-book on the chair
All the standard shipwrecks in it
Unmarked changes lurking there
Nothing though, to warn you where

7) Kitchen cooking up a blizzard
Spattered radio, cranked to ten
Nat King Cole, Ronettes and Wizzard
Chestnuts loved from way back when
Carols for the working men

8) Get the chef a lunchtime noggin
Don’t just hang about the place
Spice the washer-upper’s cider
Brandy, cinnamon and mace
Puts a grin upon his face.

9) Careful with nostalgia’s liquor
Melancholia of a sort
Drunk too deep it gets you quicker
Sediment of sentient thought
Sweeter than the cheapest port

10) Don’t return to dull or dreary
Fearful dregs of dead Decembers
Faces raddled, spirits weary
These are only blackballed members
Best consign them to the embers

11) Shut the shop and lock the office
Time to elbow all of that
Grab the glitter and the baubles
Deck the maisonette and flat
Tinsel collar for the cat.

12) Mute the babbling television
Trying to mesmerise its quarry
Freeze the frame and shame a shaman
Stall its vast container lorry
Make the advertisers sorry.

13) Let the ghosts slip by you slowly
Like a well-loved play –the cast,
Kindly, well-remembered faces
Spirits of old Christmas past
Now the credits roll too fast

14) Here’s the guvnor, his young brother,
Flashbacks from a long-closed pub
Beery counsel, one to other
And a tenner loaned –a sub
From a wolf to hard-up cub:

15) “Not too bad, boy –barring lateness
Carry on like this, I fear
You may yet go on to greatness
If we’re all around next year,
Now –d’you want a Christmas beer?”

16) Spike the guns and quit the quarrel
Bring the soldiers home again
Where the windswept wives are waiting
By the wire to meet the plane
In the needles of the rain

17) Stifle all the whining sirens
Mute the city’s drunken yells
Throng the street with laughing spirits
Light the square with carousels
Fill the air with wildheart bells

18) Couple kissing by the kettle
Briefly framed by window pane
For an elongated second
Glimpsed in streaks of sleety rain
From a late commuter train

19) Dark the churchyard yew, the berries
Dot the bottle-green with red
As the blackbirds and the thrushes
Mobbing down at dusk are fed
Bickering, put themselves to bed

20) Father Christmas and the missus.
Loading up the spectral sleigh
While the log-look gas fire hisses
Now the kids are tucked away
Final business of the day

21) Spin the yarn and sing the carol
Book the brass band in advance
Pull the spile from the barrel
Tell the joke, unleash the dance
Knees-up, Mother –now’s your chance

22) Raise the golden Saturnalia
Fetch the tankards in on trays
Riddle out the ash of failure
From the cinders of the days
Stoke it up and watch it blaze

23) As you peer into the darkness
Listening for the midnight chime
Know there’s no time like the present
Yet no present like the time
When the season’s in its prime

24) Rooftops bathed in neon splinters
Where the shattered moonlight fell
Silence of a thousand winters
Broken by a silver bell
Merry Christmas, keep it well.

© 2007 Martin Newell

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