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Friday, December 15, 2017


by Lee Patton

AP Photo/Mark Lennihan via Quartz

After the Killings 14 December 2012

I could hear 40s screwball dialogue as I woke late,
groggy, that mass-murder morning.  “What’s on TV?”
I asked. “Barbara Stanwyck flick,” you called out
from the kitchen, turning over the French toast.

I gulped coffee while Stanwyck’s character fakes
homemaker celebrity, claiming a country house
 for sham motherhood, not even knowing the name
of the baby who appears out of nowhere. Stanwyck

has to pretend the baby’s hers and put on a diaper
but fumbles.  She’s never changed one in her life.
(Like me, Stanwyck can’t help out one little kid.)
So anyway, then Christmas comes to Connecticut

with all the snow on church steeples and the village
green, glad kids, school out, toy guns, blinking Xmas
trees, the whole New England drill.  Though I knew
it was filmed on a Hollywood lot, the icicles phony,

I wanted it to be real, for that California kid I was,
who yearned for the True American Christmas—
not green grass but sparkling snowfields, not rain
but frosty, flaky white skies, not go-carts but sleds

on the nearest slope. Now, aged orphan, I yearn
for everyone who’s dead. I’d give anything to wake
late and find my dad starting the turkey, my mom
fluttering nearby, turning French toast on the stove,

my big brother plucking slices before they made it
to the table. We can’t recreate that taste, the real
Mexican vanilla my mom used to dazzle the mix.
They’re gone, Mom, Dad, Brother. Christmases pass,

lifeless. I hoped Christmas kept true in Connecticut,
perfect for all yearning kids, when the news came on.

Lee Patton, a Denverite, writes fiction, poetry, drama and commentary. He's won prizes in 2016 and 2017 from Poetry Matters and Winning Writers. Quarterlies that have published his work include Best New Writing 2012, The Threepenny Review, The Massachusetts Review, The California Quarterly,  Poetry Quarterly, Ellipsis, Hawaii-Pacific Review, Adirondack Review and Memoir Journal. His third novel My Aim Is True is out from Dreamspinner Press. “Faith of Power,” a novella, appears in Main Street Rag's 2017 suspense anthology.