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.