SHARED VISION, ONCE REMOVED

Stevie and I were probably eight
sitting on the front stoop of our flat,
he the only one in third grade smaller than me.
There was no snow to be seen,
none in the sky, none on the frozen
and still patchy lawn, just the wind
of an always cold December day.
Christmas is coming, I said
aren’t you excited, with all the gifts.
Stevie smiled, they’re always great
but maybe this year I’ll finally meet Santa.
I laughed, lacking the heart
to shatter an infantile dream.
Do you buy into the sled
and reindeer thing, or does he come
more by way of magic.
Of course it’s the sled, but
I wouldn’t be surprised
if it had some pretty good jet engines.
And you think he comes
down the chimney I asked.
We don’t have one, you know that
so he must use a back window,
the one where I broke the lock
last summer when we were spies.
He looked momentarily sad,
you don’t have anything like Santa,
although you get lots of neat gifts,
just not all at once.
At least eight, most years more
but you’re right we have no Santa,
but we have something even better.
Better how, what could be better?
Each year at Passover, Elijah
comes in during our Seder
I don’t see him but we have
to open the door for him during dinner.
Does he bring you anything?
He’s not like that, he just comes
all old and bearded, and
before you can even see him
he’s gone again, probably next door
at the Goldstein’s or maybe
with Larry Finkel, though his mom
can’t cook very well.
So what’s he do, this Elijah?
Not much, I admitted,
but he does have a drinking problem.

First Published in Friends & Friendship Vol. 1, The Poet, 2021

CHRISTMAS

It isn’t my first Christmas
although almost so, that
part of me hidden for half
a century, its twisted discovery
filling a hole that I never
knew existed, yet always knew.

This is the strangest Christmas,
a time of gathering, now
in isolation, only pixels
and prayers on a too flat screen,
and it is hard, in times
of want and suffering, to recall
why we celebrate this day.

A child was born, and now
countless others will be,
and it is only the children
that recall his message, and
truly understand peace.

A LITTLE DRUMMER

It seems less than fair that as a child
I was Jewish to the core, adopted, yes,
but certainly fully Jewish and not merely
by maternal lineage which would suffice.

Christmas was alien to me then, even
when I left Judaism behind, a shadow
that would follow me closely into
my Buddhist practice and life.

But DNA made a liar of so many,
my birth mother, the adoption agency
and my adoptive parents, for I know
my Judaism was only half of me.

So now I can enjoy Christmas
and other holidays, listen anew
to “The Little Drummer Boy”
and relish the irony of my new life.

For I have aged, as has my wife,
and when they sing “Do you hear
what I hear?” she sadly says
“not any longer I don’t” and then,

“Do you see what I see?” and I
must admit I do so only barely
and the doctors assure me that
soon enough I may say no as well.

SNOW

At first it was just odd
to think of snow as merely
a concept, a memory softer,
more pleasant than its reality.

You can grow accustomed
to concepts, they are generally
somewhat neat and tidy, easily
filed and brought forth on demand.

The concept of snow has
its great advantages, snowmen
of perfect shape, never melting
and no one must shovel a concept.

But there are moments, a tree
decorated for Christmas, you
want to reach out and feel
the chill suddenly warm your heart.

AN AWAKENING

Take one part
Grand Marnier, one
Frangelico, a short cup
of coffee, whipped cream
only if you wish,
curl on the sofa
with your life’s
greatest love
and your first
real, truly your
first Christmas Eve
makes you wonder
why you waited
so long.

First published in The Poet: Christmas (2020 United Kingdom)

ON THIS DAY

It is December, and in this
part of Florida that simply means
that a morning jacket is advised,
and rain comes as a bit of a surprise.
A neighbour was surprised to be told
that they decorated like a Northerner,
but assumed that it was a bit of a dig,
though they thought the inflatable snowman
and reindeer captured the season’s spirit.
We laugh at the red hat wearing
flamingo’s and the Christmas alligators,
the lighted palm trees seem appropriate
and snowflakes, even lit ones, know
better than to appear, for the mocking
of ibis and egrets can be unmerciful.
So we’ll settle for our odd little tree
with its lifetime of ornaments, each
carrying with it the spirit of a day
when we ought to ask ourselves what
we can do to prepare the world
for the generations we hope will follow.

First published in The Poet: Christmas, December 2020 (United Kingdom)

PUEBLO CHRISTMAS

The night is that bitter cold
that slices easily through
nylon and Polartec, makes
child’s play of fleece and denim.
The small rooms glow
in the dim radiance of propane lights
and heaters as the silver
is carefully packed away
in plastic tool boxes.
The pinyon wood is neatly stacked
in forty pyres, some little taller
than the white children
clinging to their parents’ legs,
some reaching twenty-five feet,
frozen sentinels against
the star gorged sky.
The fires are slowly lighted
from the top, the green wood
slowly creeps to flame
as its sap drips fire
until the pile is consumed.
Half frozen we step away
from the sudden oven heat.
The smoke climbs
obliterating the stars
as the procession snakes
from the small, adobe church,
the men at its head firing rifles
into the scowling smoke cloud.
A sheet is draped over the four poles
a chupah over the statue of the Virgin Mother
remarried to her people.
She weaves through the crowd,
gringos, Indians, looking
always upward, beyond the smoke
the clouds against which it nestles,
beyond all, for another
faint glimpse of her Son.

GAME, SET, MATCH

As a child, a Jewish child no less,
December was always a bit difficult.
We had Channukah, which no Jew
would dare claim grew solely to compete
with Christmas, although we all knew
that was precisely what had happened.

The problem was Christmas, but had
nothing to do with Jesus, or the church
or even its historical teachings about
the supposed role we Jews played
in that story, a role for which we
had been paying for two millennia.

The problem was far more basic,
and all you needed to do was drive
down virtually any street in any city
and it would be at once apparent.
Christmas-celebrating homes were decked
out in all colors of lights, while
Jewish homes, those few who competed,
were left with a palate of white
and blue, or up to nine candles,
and that was a guaranteed for sure
last place finish in the December game.