’TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE TOUR

‘Twas the night before Candlelight and all through the ‘hood,
Not a rascal was stirring: COPs on patrol, all safe and good.
The garland was strung round the Circles with care,
All hoping no curb-jumpers would trespass there.

The Tour captains at last all fell into their beds, 
While new tongue-tied docents danced through their heads.
Anissa had wine, the C.C.R.P had stout, 
All wondering if the details had been ironed out.

When out on the Boulevard there arose such a clatter, 
That Sergio was called to see what was the matter.
Away the neighbors to old windows did fly, 
Layered paint made them stick, so no sighting, oh my

The streetlights glimmered softly to cast a warm glow, 
A safe haven for all the night walkers below,
When what to wondering eyes should appear
But an ancient firetruck, with 8 hounds bigger’n mule deer.

With a sturdy old driver, so able, so quick,
All knew instinctively he must be St. Nick.
Swifter than rumor, louder than trains, the yelping dogs came.
Loudly whistling and shouting, St. Nick called them by name.

Now Jane, now John, now Mary and Margie,
On Sara, On Ruth, On Anne and Artie,
From Ryan to Lipscomb, Jessamine to Berry
Now cruise away, pull away, the truck’s contrary.

As the 5th Avenue sculpture held court in the night, 
Elizabeth Boulevard glowed with candlelight.
So up to the tour houses the canines hurried, 
While with a load of deliveries, St. Nick scurried.

And then, in a twinkling, it was heard on the ground
The baying and yelping of each and every hound,
As faces in windows turned, bound for untroubled sleep,
Leaping from the firetruck St. Nick landed on his feet.

He was dressed all in fur, from Neiman’s perchance, 
And his suit trimmed in purple was horn-frog enhanced. 
The bag of packages he had dropped at the door
Made him look like a Fed Ex man appearing once more.

His eyes — how they scrutinized — his eyebrows how taut, 
His cheeks were hot flushed, and his mind full of thought.
His full-lipped mouth was skewed and pursed tightly,
His mane and beard had grown long and whitely.

His stump of a stogie was cold in his teeth.
But the smell in his clothes would last the whole week.
He spoke not a word, but worked through till dawn, 
Trimming each landscape and lighting each lawn.

He looked like a stevedore, strong back and broad hands,
As he moved tables, chairs, sofas and antique hatstands.
With a flair for design and a keen sense of space,
He enhanced each tour house with a finely hued grace.

The last details were easy for the maestro to handle —
The garland, the Christmas tree, the rugs and the mantle.
Wiley G. Clarkson’s homes never looked so grand.
And St. Nick sighed, “They’re the best in the land.”

Throwing the tools in the truck, he gave the Dalmatians a shout,
Then drove down an Avenue leaving smoke all about.
But he was heard to exclaim ‘ere he drove out the ‘hood,
“This 31st Tour will be awfully dang good!”


By Clement Clarke Less