“Krampusnacht” by Ann Hart

Ann Hart


’Tis late night in Bavaria, and all through the village
The grownups are drunk, full of beer and such swillage;
While children, a-tremble, hide deep in their beds,
Fearful the Krampus will rip off their heads.
The good ones are sure they’ll survive through the night,
But the bad ones? Well, their wee faces are white,
’Cause they know that this year they have not done their part
To be good little children, not argue or fart;
Not pick at their noses or lie to their folks;
Not mock their dumb classmates or tell Polish jokes.
Yes, those little children, they’re quaking with fear;
But it’s too late to change, Krampusnacht is here.
They know what he’d done last year to Saint Nick
(it involved painful probing with a birch bark stick);
They’d heard the old elf had ended life fighting—
But despite all his clawing, despite all his biting—
his time here on earth had dwindled and passed;
And now it’s their turn, those bad lassies and lads.
Away in the distance the wind starts to blow
Like the strings of a harp being touched with a bow;
It starts soft then grows louder; it wails, moans and hums;
Its voice is a herald; it tells them he comes.
Their rooms have a chill as the temperature drops;
Their hairs stand on end, chicken skin starts to pop;
And just when they think they can stand it no more,
The soft sound of bells ringing outside the door—
It freezes their hearts; it’s too late to run!
He is here for their sins; the reckoning’s begun.
In old days the witches had dealt with this beast;
They’d bound him and scourged him, not afraid in the least,
But these little tykes have not magic so rare;
They know this horned-god in his coarse hide of hair
Will feast on their blood, make stacks of their bones;
Use their tiny pale skins to re-cover his thrones.
He will beat them with sticks; he will tear out their throats,
Feed their eyes to the crows and their guts to the goats;
He will line them all up, count their faults by the legions,
Each minor offense striped on soft nether regions.
Then he’ll bind them in chains, throw them in his dank sack,
Take them deep in to hell, and they’ll never get back
To their homes or their hearths or the warmth of their mommas,
The feel of soft slippers or flannel pajamas;
Their world will be fire, or all frozen in ice
(Whichever it is, it will not be so nice).
With eyes behind palms, the poor kids spend the night
Finally letting down hands in the first morning light.
We’re Alive! What Relief! they exclaimed and extol,
And they feel very cocky, ’til they see the charcoal;
and they know, just as soon as they give it a glance,
That they have a fresh start; they’ve been given a chance,
But they better be good; they’d better turn right,
’Cause the beast will be back, in one year from last night;
And next year they’ll all scream, as he lets out his yell—
I am coming for you and I’ll drag you to Hell!

Poets Respond
December 25, 2016

[download audio]


Ann Hart: “The ancient story of the Krampus has crept into popular culture, and I find him to be an especially fitting metaphor in 2016. Politically and culturally our country has split into good verses bad; of course, which is which is in the eye of the beholder. Behind the mask of social media we call for the bad to be punished, sometimes in horrific ways. This week Christmas and Hanukkah both offer the promise of second chances and fresh beginnings. Will we take opportunity to change our ways and to ‘turn right’?”

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