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Richard Stimac

Evergreen

Street in Winter by Edvard Munch

The snow fell three days before Christmas.
By that morning, rock salt pocks
and foundry soot scabs
marred what had been a beautiful
shroud or a swaddle. Depending on
the time of day, the reflection
from the snow blinded any
Person dumb enough to stare too long.
That was the myth.

Inside, our parents commented on the snow,
as if it were an overseas war, unfortunate,
but insignificant. The roads were cleared.
And the sun slowly melted the fringes.
The only threat was nighttime freezing
that left a thin sheen of ice
over sidewalks and driveways.
Within a week, the snow would be gone.

This was a lean Christmas.
Even the painted plaster
Wise Men and shepherds
seemed gaunt, underfed,
overworked. Their unions
lost the strike last fall
and granted concessions
to all of management’s demands,
our dad joked.

The previous year, we bought
a fake White Spruce, the best
to hang hand-made ornaments.
We left the lights on all night.

I was old enough to know
Santa didn’t exist. My brother,
eight years younger, waited,
and waited, for me to open
the present. That was all there was.
one present, for both of us.

Our dad drug his legs
from the back porch
where he smoked.
Our mom sat beneath a crucifix
with a rosary draped over the arms.
Is this all, my brother said.
Our father held a frozen smile.
Our mother covered her mouth.
I became ashamed.

Of what, I can’t say.
It’s the non-saying
that’s the real sin.
If God ordered Adam
to grant names, then we
sin in our non-naming,
non-naming a disease, a law,
a policy, an order of things
that dictates life. Names are given.
We named ourselves “sinners,”
usurping God as the Prime Cause
of all the suffering of the world.

The TV was turned down.
An advertisement for toy guns
followed one for a working oven,
that preceded by an invocation to visit
Saint Nick at the new mall.
Silent TV people laughed, as if they knew
the secret, had been inside the mall
Holy of Holies and saw not only
the ark gone, but God as well,
like the Wizard of Oz.

My brother unwrapped his gift.
I sat beside him. We made the best
of what we had. Later that day,
we would drive to one set
of grandparents, eat, talk, play,
nap, then drive to the other.
That’s how it was, then,
That one year.

 

About the writer:
Richard Stimac has published a poetry book Bricolage (Spartan Press), over forty poems in Michigan Quarterly Review, Faultline, and december, and others, nearly two-dozen flash fiction in Blue Mountain, Good Life, Typescript, and several scripts. He is a fiction reader for The Maine Review.

Image: Street in Winter by Edvard Munch (1833-1944). no medium specified. 38 x 28 cm. 1885. By free license.

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