Christmas

Issue TwelveIssue Twelve PoetryPoetry

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by Sam Morley

 

I am in the shed sweeping

when my neighbour knocks at the front door

and tells my partner her husband is cheating.

 

She says he just rolled up his swag

on 40 years of marriage and throttled

his new motorbike to who knows where.

 

At the same time, my two boys are nearby

painting sunsets when I ask them if

they think the world could last forever.

 

One says no,

it is most definitely scientifical

there will be big flames, we are too close to the sun.

 

The other says yes, forever

because he thinks that just thinking

the word forever is enough.

 

The youngest boy then says he wants to paint

a golden tombstone for one of our chooks

that died the week before. To him, death

 

isn’t anything other than the colour of life.

In the week that follows, they cry every time

I pick up a shovel or speak with a solemnity

 

that makes them think I have God within me.

But my children don’t understand God yet

or the idea of it, or how it can draw a line

 

between now and the hereafter. And I don’t

want them to know the Divine or a Heaven.

What I want is for them to know there is a line.

 

If I’d known, I’d have taken them to the front door

to meet my neighbour and her Christmas cheer

got them to thank her for her sparkling gifts.

 

I’d have made them listen to the smallest sounds

that came from her as she pushed up her glasses

to look at the tinsel festooned on the porch.

 

And I’d have trained them to find the slightest

mercy mixed in the low simmer of dusk.

But it never went like that—my neighbour

just waved it off, and my boys became

quiet, as if a constellation of dust motes

had burned and died around them.