Trimming the Tree

In a childhood
full of bad times
sad times, despair
there is only one
bad Christmas
memory

(besides the one
which I myself
made bad
by peeking into
every last present
ruining the surprise
of Christmas
but unable to stop myself
at age 11, the last gift
a brown wire-limbed
long and limber
yogi with red turban
which I would have loved
but instead hated
for being so lovely)

it was Detroit
ca 1960, the tree
was triangular
as good trees are
and Dad was on the ladder
putting up lights
or a star (or have I
just seen this on tv?)
and Mom was standing by
lending a hand or offering
irritating advice
they were on edge
there was tension
the electric lights
weren’t working

there was music
which annoyed them
accentuating as it did
their sour mood
and Dad said Turn off the radio
and Mom said I DID
turn off the radio
and they sent my sister
to turn off the radio
for I was too small
and she came back saying
she, too, had turned
off the radio
but still the music played
and the lights weren’t working
and the ladder was unsteady
and Mom was jittery
and Dad was angry

and the damned music
just made it all worse
so one of them, or all of us,
marched out of the room
to put an end to it
following the strains
past the dead radio
to the front door
behind which stood
a small chorus of carolers
repeating a refrain
over and over
with the patience of Christ
believing in their hearts
that someone, we
were home

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