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Muslim Christmas

Read by Elizabeth Onusko

It sat downstairs on the air hockey table,
its shedding needled branches, its copper wire arms.
With care, our mother draped its false twigs in silver
garlands, two for a dollar on the clearance rack,
and the ornaments–her mother’s, long dead–
we cradled in our palms like baby Jesus might have
been held, our non-savior swathed in hay in the barn-crib, safe
and human. Before the two-foot tree,
we made our own, traced our hands on green construction paper,
cut out five-fingered fronds and taped them to the wall.
Our mother wept at its absurdity. But each December
he came for us, there were glittering gifts beneath
whatever false icon we had constructed, and I marveled at how
merciful this man-God could be, Santa Christ, Saint Jesus,
who had found our home and come before the altar
of the unbelieving, stood there in its wavering light,
and left for us chocolate, snow boots, everything we liked.

Leila Chatti is a Tunisian-American dual citizen and former special education teacher. She received her MFA in poetry from North Carolina State University, where she was awarded the Academy of American Poets Prize. A 2015 winner of the Nazim Hikmet Poetry Competition, her work appears in journals such as Rattle, decomP, and others. She serves on the poetry staff at The Adroit Journal and currently lives in Southern France.