The Divine Enters thru Imagination’s Holes


Christmas Eve

My brothers are all in Sewanee, Tennessee for the first full family Christmas gathering since my father died a year and a half ago. Scott Bates loved Christmas and we feel his absence acutely. I invoke his memory by sharing one of his Christmas poems.

This particular one expounds upon holes as it reflects upon the arrival of the messiah. Various literary characters from my father’s favorite childhood books make their entrance through holes, including Santa and figures from Alice in Wonderland, At the Back of the North Wind (a knot hole), The Water Babies (Tom is a chimney sweep), and “The Three Little Pigs.” These are all miracles of the human imagination, and the point of the poem is that we are the messiah that we await. As Gandhi famously put it, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

If Christmas means realizing that the divine dwells within the human, then the spirit of Christmas occurs whenever we fictionally identify with characters. For stories to work their magic, we must open ourselves to them, makes ourselves into holes. Put another way, we must suspend our disbelief, empty ourselves, become as little children. We learn to do this so automatically that we take it for granted and forget how amazing it is. Christmas, which in my family always involves a lot of books, is a good time to appreciate the miracle of reading. Scott Bates calls it “the hole marvelous shebang.”

“Scott and Phoebe and Sam” are my parents and youngest brothers. The rest of us are the hole gang.  

Holey Night

By Scott Bates

We were watching here
at the foot of our chimney hole
for something miraculous to drop
like Alice
or the White Rabbit
or the North Wind or bill the Lizard or
Tom the Chimney Sweep or the Big bad Wolf or a round
little man with a bowl full of jelly

or at least a man from the toy shop
with a bowl full of video games

We were watching here in short
on the most exciting night of the year
when suddenly
it occurred to us
or maybe we had heard it somewhere
that the hole truth
the hole story
the hole marvelous shebang in a word
Alice Bill Tom Santa the Wolf
the Ox the Ass
the Reindeer
even the Mouse
(holey understandably)


so here we are
with holehearted
good wishes for a


Scott and Phoebe and Sam
and the hole gang

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  • Literature is as vital to our lives as food and shelter. Stories and poems help us work through the challenges we face, from everyday irritations to loneliness, heartache, and death. Literature is meant to mix it up with life. This website explores how it does so.

    Please feel free to e-mail me [rrbates (at) smcm (dot) edu]. I would be honored to hear your thoughts and questions about literature.

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