Royal Calkins’ Epic Christmas Poem The tradition lives on


NOTE FROM ROYAL: A few decades ago while I worked for the Fresno newspaper, columnist Eli Setencich began writing a hokey version of The Night Before Christmas featuring the names of notable Fresnans. Because I never made the list, I moved away but took the idea with me. I was going to drop it this year by popular demand, but then The New Yorker did its own version the other day. And I figured, if it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for us.

By Royal Calkins

It was the night before Christmas of 2017,
One of the scariest years we ever have seen.
Pops spent each day hunkered down in his chair
While Mom kept pronouncing that things just weren’t fair

“But it’s Christmas,” he said, “come on, just relax.”
But her replies revealed her true views, they were mainly attacks.
“How can I prepare for the sound of hooves on the roof
When for our president we have such a goof?”
“Must we be resigned to just picketing and chanting,
When there are real seeds of change we need to be planting?”

“I hear you,” said Pops, as he looked for his checkbook
“At least we can contribute to those who will cook
for the homeless, the uninsured, all the victims of Trump,
until we figure out how to get over this bump.”

In the meantime, they decided to focus on the holidays
Wrapping presents, dipping Dungeness in mayonnaise
To the dropping of dollars into red Salvation kettles
To hearing sweet carols on clarinets and fiddles

So they settled back into their beds warm and fluffy
And tried to forget the things that made them gruffy
Visions of Obamacare, of unity, of fair taxation for all
Danced through their heads as they avoided the mall

But then they were wakened by feet on the ceiling
Pops thought that the paint must be peeling
But then from the rooftop they heard some hearty chatter
And they raced outdoors to see what was the matter

They gasped as they saw an orange man in a black suit
That was made even blacker by all the chimney soot
He was climbing up the bricks, carrying our stuff behind him
He was stealing our treasures, taking our cheer and turning it dim

He jumped onto his sleigh and cracked his whip with a cackle
As his red-nosed mules attempted some magic to tackle
They lifted the sleigh and the coiffed man off into the night
And I heard him call the roll, one that gave me a fright.

“Now Gingrich, now Giuliani, now Carson and Bannon,
On Pence, on Tillerson, on every loose cannon…
To the top of the world, to claim most if not all
Dash their hopes, dash their hopes, we’re having a ball.”

Right then, though, the alarm clock sounded its chime
And Pops and Mom awoke just in time
To discover it was only a Christmas eve dream
That they hadn’t been trampled by dystrumpian scheme

So happy holidays, we shout to the ones we adore
Like Aparna and David, Greg Furey and lean Tom Moore
Merry Christmas Mari Lynch, Mary Adams, and Mary Barker, too
Plus the S girls, Phil Bowhay and Karen Ravn to name just a few

One of the three wisest men is Ron Weitzman, you see
And an awfully wise woman is Engell, Julie
Bring some holiday cheer to the Larrys, Parsons and Parrish
A toast to Kathy Nichols, Pris Walton and others we cherish

Knit a sweater for Phillip Tabera and one for every Karas,
Another for Luis Alejo, Kate Daniels and old Art Harris
Under the mistletoe Susie Franklin, Betsy Buchalter Adler, Sandy Leader
For Paulette Lynch, how about a First Night heater?

Wrap bows around Marcos Cabrera, Victor Almazan and Bobby Danziger
And dashing Alan Haffa, who has maintained his figure
Here’s a Santa hat for Susan Meisner and Blanca Zarazua
If you can rhyme that, write your own poem next year

A tip of that cap for Juan Uranga, Sam Farr and Simon Salinas for retiring
And Robert Walton and Christie Hoffknecht, who set the candles firing.
A giant lump of coal for whoever decided Wallace Baine should stop writing
Without him the Sentinel and Herald are much less exciting

Scott Roseman, Shmuel Thaler, Brad and young Tyson Wile
Need a big stack of holiday cards to stick in their file
We applaud Mary White for boosting Voices of Monterey Bay
And about Enid Baxter Rice, Nina Simon and Luis Xago Juarez, what can we say?

New roller skate wheels for that nice Erica Parker
A new shoulder for Steve Hunt, eggnog for Phil Bowhay, that sweet talker
Under the mistletoe Robert Coble, Terry Soria, stern Vanessa Vallarta
Merideth C-N, Ann Hougham and Heather Stewart, don’t drift aparta.

Start a progressive procession for George Riley, Janet Brennan, Molly and Mike
John Berteaux, Portland Putnam, Nancy and Dan each gets a bike
Jane Haines, Nancy Peden, Marcos and Ginger, Richard Rosen
With some elves or some such they each should be a-posing.

A holiday thumbs up to important import Anthony Dann
Who helps make the Voices of MB train run as fast as it can
A pinch of sour pie for that cranky Crawford, Phil
A sweeter slice for the best senator, the Monning one, Bill

To the Ordonios, Gordon Smith and Chris Cain
Here’s hoping that in 2017 we’ll see you again
Full stockings for Kay Jones, Pete Poitras, Miles and Vinny,
And old Heraldites Julie Reynolds and Virginia Hennessey

A bubbly toast to Ken Gordon who keeps CHOMP on mission
And to Karl Pallastrini, who should be off somewhere fishin’
Dave Kellogg and the Gigers deserve their own special stockings
Filled with candy and sprinkles and Christmas tree flocking

Gary Karnes, Bruce Delgado, David and Vicky Duke
All know Jimmy Panetta’s win was no fluke
Along with Al Maldonado, Iris Brewster, Jason Campbell, Art and Ann
Who, we can hope, find a perfect holiday plan

Yes we know these rhymes are hokey, the sentiments too mushy
But it’s how it goes here at Voices, the holidays make us gushy
It’s a tradition, this doggerel, a cheap way of sharing
Some holiday sentiment for those about whom we’re a-caring.

So Happy Christmas Mel Mason, Steve Goings, Jeanne and Dan Turner,
Helen Rucker, Bill Leone, you trust funders and wage earners
Unwrap some cheer, Judy Archibald and, yes, you, Luke Coletti
While for Jeanne Marino and Paul Cutino we fix Christmas spaghetti

Break out the trumpets for Carl Christensen, Myrleen Fisher and sweet Alice Green
For Katherine Ball, may this be the best one you’ve seen
Victoria Manley Thompson and Denese Sanders should cuddle with Santa
While someone figures out a better rhyme for Devin Podeszwa

Morley Brown, Fred Hernandez, Libby Downey deserve something carved of choice wood
And so do Carol Voss, Michael Hendrick and Buckeye Billy Hood.
Bill Balester and Mike McCarthy could use some holiday kindness, I suppose
We have some pot permits for old Nader Agha but he has some of those

Ring the bell, Belle Yang, and join her, Miss Patterson, Lucy
May Gary Karnes’ Christmas pudding not turn out too juicy
Nancy Peden, Lisa Watson and let’s not forget Gillian Taylor
Here’s hoping their Xmas turkey isn’t a failure

So that’s it, I think, or else this will get too long
You have dishes to do and the kids need a song
So Merry Christmas, happy holidays, groovy solstice, whatever
We hope the worst of the year won’t stay with you forever
Here’s hoping the dupes in Washington soon come to their senses
And us 99 percent can start mending fences.

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Royal Calkins

About Royal Calkins

Contributing writer Royal Calkins has worked for newspapers in Santa Cruz, Monterey and Fresno. For the past couple of years, he has produced a local news and commentary blog, the Monterey Bay Partisan. He can be reached at