A Carol for Southern Christmases

The light above my mother’s couch should be enough.
The tiered palmettos, suburban streetlamps
splintering pine. The bitterness of reheated
coffee, that gnaw in the stomach before sleep.

There would be stories of my grandfather’s infidelity–
that year in California with a woman he held like a violin–
the Christmases of death and divorce and dreaming of snow.
I would tell my mother about the Midwestern skies
where the sun sets like a bottle rocket,
the cycles of corn, its sudden growing
like a child in the belly you cannot stop.  

There would be New Year’s with ham and kale,
sour cherry pie and sandwiches on soft white bread.
Car doors slamming shut in the driveway, nights where I fell
asleep in the bath reading Hass. There the walls
change color each autumn and all of us are frozen in age.

There would be airplanes coming in like sleighs,
each stocking stuffed with oranges, pears, things we do not eat.
The tree in all its ornament, never alive, never feigning to be.
And it should be enough to sleep on the couch
on Christmas Eve, where every voice is like the ghost
of the kittens we killed years ago,
so deformed their mother would not nurse them.

Author: Erin Elizabeth Smith