Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Not Egypt Christmas poem by Susan Sheppard

It was not Egypt but West Virginia as I plunged

My hands into a crown of thorn-branches

Of a Scotch pine and dragged it home

Like a dead body, needles cutting my palms all the way.

After all, it was Christmas Eve and Dad was drunk,

And our mother lay on the bed in the particular way

That she did, in a queenly wig of pink foam curlers,

Her brain humming with its peculiar music of being

Somewhere else. I crossed the hill with my bristly kill

Over yellow tufted weeds and cows lowing with

Heads heavy like buckets of stones.

On a broom-brown rise I saw the white tail of a doe

Explode into milkweed fluff. In that dark, all I wanted

From Santa was a dime-store doll with blue hair and

The lives of the suicides in my family to be forgiven.

There was the tapping of sleet, and the tinkling of

Aluminum chairs on porches like fairy winds.

Unlike rain, snow came silent. When the snowflakes

Touched the dark rocks they melted instantly.

At the stream near our house, the black water

Under ice and snow was shaped like a canopic jar

Amid sodden leaves. I remembered Christmas

Bells made from Dixie cups and coarse gold glitter,

The church at the bottom of our hill that did not have

A bell so played a recording of a bell.

Nearing home, I saw what looked to be a burning furnace

Beyond the mountain's tomb and black rushes of water

Under Wabash bridge with its bits of stars. When I got

To the house, a doorway opened in the hill like a doorway to Thebes.



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