stranger

darkholidaylights

Weren’t we all taught to fear strangers?
Not during Christmas.
A few days ago, I read a Facebook post where a mother explained that her little boy does not believe in Santa, and it confuses him that a stranger is allowed into children’s houses every Christmas Eve night. This got me thinking about current issues in the States, including immigration, and then along came this poem….


her brown loafer shoes slap the pavement between the cracks
as she skips and spins through downtown like a top
that her grandparents found in their stockings years ago

daddy was behind her, a walmart bag clutched in a gloved hand
while red and white wrappers and a stuffed bunny head peek
from the top, and he thought about the sparkle lights he can’t afford

“where is santa?” she stops on the sidewalk and her blue cap
sinks lower on her forehead, and he looks at her braids and sees another
woman from an older world where white-bearded men are foreigners

“there” he points and speaks in the language he was born into,
and the mommys and daddys strolling by look at him like he had just
wrestled an angel from heaven and spat into its blood-laced  wings

the girl spots the old man from two blocks away, almost darting
into a web of cars, rushing like interlaced threads in a knit scarf,
before her daddy grabs her hand and tells her “wait, please wait”

the line is long, and little boys stamp their feet and make gun noises
and parents sip their coffee and scream “shut up and wait your turn,”
and daddy remembers the cramped lines for coming to this country

only in those lines they waited, and at home in the darkness they waited
not to sit in a stranger’s lap but for the letter that said “you can run now”
and “come find home here” between the  black official words on white paper

“look at me, daddy!” she says, climbing into the red man’s lap, teasing
his beard with her fingers, kissing his cheek before she leaps down
and runs back to daddy with a candy cane and a promise of a doll for christmas

and he sees what she doesn’t – santa’s cold eyes following their return
down the sidewalk, the waiters wondering if he came with bombs in the
walmart bag instead of stuffed bunnies and dollar store christmas candy

and the girl prattles about santa coming to her house, an unknown voice
speaking into quiet halls, a banging like the dreaded knock on the door,
sneaking in and out like a thief, only leaving gifts instead of taking

and for this man, little children lie awake on rumpled comforters, ears open
for feet on the roof tiles, the crunch of snow beneath a black boot
or a flash of red through a curtained window and a present from far away

and daddy shoves frozen hands into his pockets as she skips down the road,
watching dusk disappear and gold lights frame the downtown houses
and the wind bat snow back into the branches and wash away footprints

and wonders when she will know that her new friend is a ghost-
intruders are greeted with handcuffs instead of cookies, loud sounds
in the night are a sign to run, and no one waits in line to hug a stranger

 

 

 

 

 

 

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