I keep forgetting the native in nativity
And wait expectant instead for the fulfilled prophecies
Of Norman Rockwell, the revelations of Frank Capra,
For Bing Crosby to wake me to a December
So very unlike my own.
And I wait patient for a Christmas morning
Swaddled in the immaculate magic
Of newly delivered snow.
One year, I’d asked for a spaceship and received a 2nd hand globe instead.
I wept beneath the pine tree, glass spheres poised above my head,
Surrounded by the crinkled wrapping
Of a gift, already opened.
Every year after, I asked for snow.
Flaking wasn’t an indication of weakness or weathering.
Flaking was weather itself:
Tokens tufts of cloud exchanged when heaven flirted with earth
And enveloped it.
Our mobile homes would morph to chateaus.
Our graveyard of cars would grow into a garden:
Celestial topiaries, sidewalks sheened in silver.
Our neighbor’s rusted gate would shimmer in pearls burst from their oysters,
Their zoo of statuary, haunted by heavenly ghosts.
But the snow never came.
The neighbors were peddlers and sold the treasures
On display behind those bars:
Broken butterflies, bird-bombed cherubs,
Plaster Greek-revival reconstructions,
A sailor with an outstretched arm and no lantern left,
And, all year-round, a life-sized crèche,
Wrought in water-proof plastic.
Baby Jesus had been the first to sell
While Madonna, an ass, a few wise men remained
To stare at the ground
Where the baby had laid.
My parents said he was on vacation,
Away visiting family like the rest of us.
When he didn’t return, I prayed for snow instead,
But that didn’t descend either.
The stars came caged in latent trees;
We kept a dying evergreen in our living room to forget.
But this year,
The winter was even warmer than usual.
After stopping home in January,
The tropical storms had come and passed.
And when driving by the neighbors,
I noticed that the emporium remained.
The statues were stripped of all garish decoration
And mottled with mold like marble:
Archaeological angels in waiting.
Bacteria spermed bread in my mother’s oven.
Eczema had risen on the persimmon’s limbs.
But I was half-way home.
And as I bit the rim of sourdough
And gripped the grate of budding branches, I remembered hearing how
He’d been born in the spring anyway.