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Saturday, December 25, 2021


by Sam Barbee

Nothing at stake this Christmas morning. 
The grate glares cold ash. I sip coffee
and recall family visits and apparitions
demanding reprise. Holiday lights
warm cedar branches with efforts to stay jolly. 
Outside, snowflakes soothe, fresh confection
masterpiece balanced beyond our threshold. 
Chill peals across the snow. Narrow drifts
shiver from the boughs. Yard gnomes grin.
Birdbath idles, basin propped against the pedestal.
Our tiny saints sing rounds of Jingle Bells
and toss snowballs. My son slings boyhood
My daughter casts off little sister caution—
Sublime wintering, no need for Merry New Year. 
Icicles hang from soffits, false prisms for icy shadows. 
I sort glossy holiday cards. 2021 slumps by the day.
Silence graphs this past year, this dreadful year,
when smallness thrived. My holiday paunch
swollen by a year I etched as edible—
my holiday efforts to burnish shiny days
and belittle others until we shutter failings.
I petition for the New Year's messiah with strategies
to charm next year's calendar, already highlighted
with celebrations and pursuits. The moon wanes,
shudders with a gut punch.  Shall I toss the diary?
Put the fresh word-a-day calendar in a drawer?
Will I placate the next world with old tricks?
Or tease tonight's marrow. I dream of easy
installments: a bit strapped for cash, my angels
flap their wings and cheer my unraveling day.
I stir the hearth ashes. And imagine a single
perfect morning when carols dance in the chimney
and risk sleeps in. Admire art gifted to one another,
hung on stark walls like flawless bliss trying to take hold.
Merriness found in a new masterpiece revealing old joy. 

Sam Barbee has a new collection, Uncommon Book of Prayer (2021, Main Street Rag).  His poems recently appeared in Poetry South, Literary Yard.  His collection That Rain We Needed (2016, Press 53) was nominated for Roanoke-Chowan Award as one of North Carolina’s best 2016 poetry collections; a two-time Pushcart nominee.