A not very Christmasy Christmas poem

Stanley Lake

My mom asks me to write Christmas poems every year for our cards. We’ve been doing it since I was in 10th grade, I think. She’ll take the photo, I’ll write the words and lately the poems that I try to sit down and write have turned out too dark for the holidays. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s some force in my brain telling me not to write fluff, to write things that matter and when I do that it’s not always Mary Oliver, but lately Mary Oliver hasn’t done it for me. It’s strange. I’m not someone who hates Christmas, I love it actually. It’s the only season I really decorate for, I love my tree and thank it for sacrificing it’s life to sit in my hot living room for a month or two or three until pat forces me to take it down. I love the lights and buying gifts for people I love, so who knows…
After I spent 5 hours at my desk writing this only to be told, lovingly, that it’s not very Christmasy, my first thought was: You want a Christmas poem?! It’s snowing/Fuck everything (artists are never sensitive. never.)
But it will do. It was too long for a card anyway and Mom is using her favorite lines. All is well, things are jolly, if you need a little darkness this holiday season here’s the poem in its entirety. This is more of a river poem anyway. I’ll take it.

Traveling a River of No Return

The Sawtooths swallow lake and fog.
The sun looms light, weaving us into morning’s
quiet ribs. There are places we always belong.
Today, we rig.
Everyone foretells the dangers
like skeleton cards we’ve pulled years ago.
Each journey is fated by her: The river
running west.
On dry land is the place to tell
such stories. Once we are upon her,
she won’t know the difference between leaves
lives or ice. She could pluck each one of us like flower heads.
But we hold these dangers close to us, pray
for safe passage like you would for any lifetime
and let the water take us.

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