The Night Before Christmas on Accotink Creek

The Night Before Christmas on Accotink Creek

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and on Accotink Creek,
Not a creature was stirring, not a mouse did squeak.
The light of the moon amidst clouds hanging low,
Cast a glittery ribbon on the lake below.

Frogs slumbered ‘til spring in their muddy beds,
While visions of mayflies danced in their heads.
Through the park we strolled ‘neath a winter sky,
Under frosty branches and stars hung high.

On this peaceful lake, arose splashing and splatter.
We all turned our heads to see what was the matter.
When up from the water, arose with swish,
A silver canoe, towed by eight magic fish.

Riding in the canoe was the strangest sight.
We saw we would not meet St. Nicholas tonight.
So narrow and long, each end looked the same,
She urged her team onward and called them by name:

“Now Darter! Now Dace!
Now Sculpin and Shad!
Madtom and Mummichog!
On Shiner and Bass!
Right up to the beach!
Past the seawall!
Now splash away! Splash away!
Splash away all!”

Flopping up on the sand the fish made their way,
Where their gleaming driver bid them to stay.
She was slathered in slime from her head to her tip.
Her skin glistened and shone as she stretched and slipped.

She turned out to be a right jolly old eel.
With each wriggle and squirm, the children would squeal.
She worked not in silence, but had so much to say,
Through needle-sharp teeth in her slithery way.

Yet her vipery shape and her darting head,
Made us feel there might still be something to dread.
Each adult and child drew back in fright,
As she reared herself up and spoke in the night.

“The gifts of the waters I bring from the deep.
They are yours alone to lose or to keep:

The grace of the heron passing in flight,
Spring peepers in chorus filling the night,

Turtles dragging their tails as they slink,
Beavers and otter and unseen mink,

The migrating shad in teeming shoals,
The witnessing trees, some centuries old,

Glorious color in a wood duck’s wing,
Far fluting of thrushes while they sing,

Schooling minnows that dance in the sun,
The sheltering woods where you play and run,

The splash of a fish taking prey from the air,
The silence of mussels in their pearly lairs,

Pure living water, from Blue Ridge to Bay,
The gift of life given freely flows your way.

In return I’ve brought in my weathered sack,
Your gifts to the creek, which it now gives back.”

She dumped a bag so tattered, so soiled with muck
We knew from the lake it must have been plucked
Out spilled old plastic, and trash, and tires and more
Bottles and cans and bacteria galore.

“Think sometimes of us in the Accotink
Who live in this water which you dare not drink.”

She twisted and turned, gave a word to her team
And away they all skittered back into their stream.
But we heard her exclaim ‘ere they sank out of sight,

“Good Christmas for all will fill this night,
When each soul for others, does what is right,
And good tidings for all will waft in the air
When each person finds just one other who cares.”

. . . . . . . . acknowlegements to Clement Clarke Moore