Posted on September 24, 2011
On Christmas Eve, I lay in front of the Christmas tree
watching the toy train underneath wind merrily around the presents,
content to run the same circles again and again
without ever really going anywhere.
Bright, twinkling lights and glittering plastic icicles
blocked my view of stars winking at me in the sky beyond the window
and I looked up, wondering if the paper angel topping the tree
was there because it was a holiday, and the real angels had the night off
when my mom strode by and patted me gently on the head,
stopping at the creche to upright a king the cat had knocked over
before continuing to the kitchen, while he, in turn,
resumed offering his coffers of gold unbidden
to a pauper king and babe too poor to even ask it.
I stared at the moulded resin manger and laid my head upon my hands,
ashamed as I recalled how walking home from church
in our new jackets and shiny patent leather shoes,
some homeless man asked a dollar to get a bite to eat from my dad,
who shook his head while my mom settled in closer,
mumbling under her breath about how it was Christmas
and couldn’t they forget their addictions long enough
to let honest folk celebrate one holy night in peace?
The smell of roasting meat wafted in from the kitchen,
rising above the laughter and cigar smoke of men
who poured sloppily into glasses from a now nearly empty bottle.
Crystal glinted and silver sparkled above crisply starched linens
while steam rose from buffets waiting to accept and offer
more food than three times our number could reasonably eat
but which the garbage pail would manage quite well come morning.
My sister pranced gaily around the table, tinsel streaming through her hair,
laughing as she said tonight our house was a palace fit for a king.
And I tucked myself alone in a corner and bitterly wept,
because I knew that the only King worth anything
had decided to spend Christmas in the stable instead.