The Christmas Man

September 21, 2008
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Outside, white frost clings to the windowpanes
Inside, icicles hang like ornaments from his beard.
He sits in the creaking chair staring
At the red and green ribbons stuck to the wall
Pinned up with tacks from the jar
Next to the metallic cash register that was bought at a yard sale
In 1965.
Plastic reindeer, the blinking ones from Wal-Mart, flash their noses:
Red; green; blue; white.
The colors reflected in his slanting eyes become
Invisible as his red hat collapses
Giving into gravity.
He lifts his hand wrapped in a white glove and pushes the hat back up
It is done slowly—there is no need to rush here
Winter comes each year.
He looks blankly at the outline of dead trees
Outside the frosted window
A log falls in the fireplace and sparks jump
He flinches but doesn’t turn
Next to his arm a candle drips hot wax
The substance slowly suffocates the broken table.
Then, from the distance he hears them
Their cries are familiar
Some shake bells
Many sip hot chocolate, fresh from Swiss Miss packets
Inside each of their fists is a folded piece of paper
Each page is worn, but not old
Red goo from candy canes adds texture to the red or green or blue or white papers.
He remembers them from last year, when he stared down at the lines and wrinkles
They must have been re-folded many times
He puts his hand to his face; he can feel the creases.
They are closer now
He can hear them clomping their boots up the stones
The latch is pushed up and the wooden door is opened.
He begins to breathe again
Not ready to begin another year.





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