‘Two o’clock and all’s well.’
A shivering watchman rings his bell.
The celebrants of midnight mass
are home abed, where’ere they dwell.
Alone, he huddles in a doorway,
no brown terrier by his side.
Tess took ill on Hallows Eve.
On All Saints Day, the old dog died.
Snow tumbles to the narrow street,
slid from the roof across the way
Where he’d just stood. Now on that roof
there stands a large, red, reindeer sleigh.
Two small brown dogs leap from the sleigh
and scamper down the sloping thatch,
landing in the street like birds.
One pauses there, an ear to scratch.
The other – can it be his Tess? –
speaks with her eyes, and in his mind
he hears, ‘That’s where we good dogs go,
to play with elves and reindeer-kind.’
'Where Christmas doesn’t come with bangs,
and dogs aren’t made to wear daft hats
or antlers. Just snooze by the fire,
eat what we like and not get fat.'
The other dog has joined them now.
‘Recall my pups from three years since.
The ratcatcher bought two of them.
This dog was one. He named him Prince.’
The other dog takes up the tale.
‘My sister, Princess lies near here.
We were abandoned, left to starve.
She lives, but not for long, I fear.’
The watchman follows through the snow.
Two tails, like flags wave up ahead.
And there, behind a cold brown corpse,
Another brown dog lifts her head.
He picks her up and tucks her safe
inside his greatcoat, warm and dry.
Then hurries back to where he left his bell
before the hour draws nigh.
The sleigh flies low. The dog-wraiths leap.
St. Nicholas waves. Four hours till dawn.
The watch bell rings out. ‘Three o’clock
and all’s well on this Christmas Morn.