ROBERT PINSKY: Families often have their myths and legends, and many of them surround holidays like Christmas. Sometimes, no one is quite sure how much truth and how much invention goes into these stories, but they become valuable as household works of art. I begin my poem "History of My Heart" with a Christmastime story of my own family:
from HISTORY OF MY HEART
One Christmastime Fats Waller in a fur coat
Rolled beaming from a taxicab with two pretty girls
Each at an arm as he led them in a thick downy snowfall
Across Thirty-fourth Street into the busy crowd
Shopping at Macy's: perfume, holly, snowflake displays.
Chimes rang for change. In Toys, where my mother worked
Over her school vacation, the crowd swelled and stood
Filling the aisles, whispered at the fringes, listening
To the sounds of the large, gorgeously dressed man,
His smile bemused and exalted, lips boom-booming a bold
Bass line as he improvised on an expensive, tinkly
Piano the size of a lady's jewel box or a wedding cake.
She put into my heart this scene from the romance of Joy,
Co-authored by her and the movies, like her others--my father making the winning basket at the buzzer
And punching the enraged gambler who came onto the court-
The brilliant black and white of the movies, texture
Of wet snowy fur, the taxi's windshield, piano keys,
Reflections that slid over the thick brass baton
That worked the elevator.
That may have happened--I think my mother said it did!
In any case, I wish you a holiday season of joy on a legendary scale.