the xmas tree

i didn’t want a xmas tree
i didn’t like the idea of all that green
cut down just to wait
with the garbage for the garbage man
two weeks later
i didn’t want him to steal the tree
but after he stole it
i wanted him to put it up
we left it out back on a pile
of old wood and branches and trash
six days with me dreaming
it in the house blinking
reds and greens and blues as mysterious
as brightly colored packages suspending surprise
but i wasn’t interested in xmas
i told him — go ahead
work on xmas
don’t get me a present
do what you want

when he finally borrowed
a tree stand he put it in the middle
of the room and we walked
around it for two days
like a mutant growth
it blocked the way
between the kitchen and the living room
i didn’t realize it was so big

the night i found out
he wasn’t as happy
with me as i was
with him the night he said
— i’m working second shift on xmas
and i cried
— you’re going to leave me alone on xmas!
and he got mad
— you said you weren’t interested
in xmas
that night
i woke at 5 am
and he was dancing around the tree
like a giant elf where he’d moved it
sniffing and tossing scarves
over the branches
— look
he said
— a star
for the top

lately i keep hearing my mother
say don’t get me a present
just be nice to me for one day
and i can’t believe
how this holiday hangs open
like a xmas stocking
each year waiting for me to stuff
it with brightly wrapped and ribboned
packages of shit

wendy shaffer

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