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.