Hard Times

Paraphrasing the Pickwick Papers

Charles Dickens surely wrote the book.

He found the cutest Little Matchgirl
peering through a window of opportunity.
And in the halo of a leaded mullion,
the Victorian deceit of Perfect Christmas.

‘That’s old,’ you say, ‘days have come and gone.
Those ghosts? – devices, spectres of the past.’
Yet in the blast, a cold-toed child
still stands outside the feast.
Despite a Christ Star waxing in the East.

It’s come to this, you see, and thus.
A grinding poverty lives among us still.
Paucity of love and all-absenting fellowship
allows mankind’s child to do without.
And fills three crosses black against a hill.

Where is the charity we preach?
It dare not reach beyond a cozy threshold.
We give, at best, to those of creed and kind.
Then cry out ‘wipe your feet,’
and ‘leave all foreign sentiment behind.’

Religion is but form over substance.
Giving tickets for the seating at Christ’s feet.
Sanitizing Crucifixion.
Psalms of praise in perfect diction,
and Mahomet, one more middle class elite.

It’s a world gone mad that sees its children suffer.
It’s just fighting in the queue that leads to Hell.
Must each bible-bashed extreme
leave us drowning in the stream,
like our maladroit humanity as well?

You see, moral codes are not reserved to Godheads.
Humanism is an ‘ism’ like the rest.
Every do good in the land,
bangs the drum in his own band:
His Redeemer, Lord and Saviour is the best.

So we’re left with someone gilding all the lilies.
After ‘suffer little children come to me’
All these ‘lilies of the field’
stand unvarnished through the glass.
In that Festive scene we only rarely see.

Yes it’s cold outside, but if I may, I venture:
That ‘it’s colder in each paradise we build.’
Our hearts moribund and bleak,
like the empty words we speak.
won’t revive the many infants that we’ve chilled.

© franciman 2023
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critique and comments welcome.
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With Branson as the Bearded Beadle. “And in the halo of a leaded mullion” was the stand-out line for me in this moving piece.


Well crafted and hard hitting, Jim. Hard times indeed when an excellent poem like is hardly commented on.

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I’ve got all things possible crossed so my inner self doesn’t start berating me for breaking my vow to only comment on the poetry challenges right now – but I’m tickled pink to see you back on site again! This is So masterful and in wonderful rhyme, no less. You genius, you. No further crit from me ‘cos that seems unfair to other writers who’ve posted to the main site recently, but did you mean to enter your fiction piece to the challenge? If so, there’s a category for that alone, now. Sending the best of holiday vibes your way!… Read more »

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