Poets’ Corner: Faux Ho Ho

Editor’s note: Poet extraordinaire Kierstin Bridger never disappoints, but often shocks. There, packed in the back of the closet with the tired tinsel star and the good holiday plates lie our memories of the season: some are of angels; others, well, the devils that nip at our souls. Here Kierstin fights back with powerfully poignant words.

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Faux Ho Ho—What We Remember

 What if the holly and the glittered stars

were the only reliable witnesses?

Our story told by the bough’s eye of needle,

by the kisses under mistletoe or their lack.

Do I remember the ten-speed’s shine,

its placement near the tree or the snapshot:

my new snow boots atop pedals,

while the bubble lights boiled in the background.

Through the wreath-wrung scene—

my father slumped in a thin, plaid robe,

a football helmet on his bed-head,

white guard over his stubbled chin.

I thought he ruined our paper-tearing glut

by mumbling money’s name.

Now I know it’s the anomaly we remember,

not always the carol of merriment.

My child recalls the scramble

for the off-brand doll I’d forgot to wrap

not the red cliffs iced with fresh snow,

the Polar Express highway: wet black,

shouldered by feather-flocked branches,

our San Juan wonderland of everyday treasures—

candied sugar nothings. Unlike me,

she’d never entertain a thought of coal.

My father worked underground

like his father and many fathers before him.

I have no real knowledge

of that kind of dark cave—

under the sludge, under deep roots

inside granite and shale,

or his blizzard-bleak, swing-shift drives.

A looming lay-off, the pile of Christmas cards

on the passenger seat 30 years ago—

studio portrait indictments in peppermint ties,

spit-slicked cowlicks, gingerbread families intact,

where everything and nothing seemed real.

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