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SHOTGUN CHRISTMAS

If you don’t believe in heaven, what then
is holy? Before dinner, your diabetic father
punching a syringe into his belly, fill your mother
with Rockstar and orange juice, fill
a wooden pipe with a squeeze of weed,
and she will have your father leaning back
in his wooden chair, laughing the tears out
of his eyes. Your mother with a dark tooth
up front, cock-a-doodle-dooing, palming
a stray punch sent from your sister to you
over the already-been-beaten beef, and the salads
oversalted the way your family loves them,
and the television’s volume pumped. Your mother
covers your eyes with a biscuit to keep the cold
from your dreams. The eighteen-wheeler queen,
she’s the hot hand in meatloaf. Your mother
would drag a boxed-up house on a flatbed trailer
to Baton Rouge tonight if you asked her.
But you’re staying scared of the outside world.
Frost is rumored this Christmas Eve, and she’s outside
axing the kindling, singing “Smackwater Jack”
as she wheelbarrows wood up the three front stairs.
And in she whishes in a wife-beater and pink slippers
and cut-off jeans with an armful of pine. Susan or Suzie
or How-Do-You-Do-Sue, she’s got your father
kneeling, balling newspaper into the fireplace,
your sister whipping double chocolate malts
as punishment. It’s past your bedtime, and in your dream
the clouds will crack like a ceiling, will suck you over
the barbed fences and almond orchards of a strange frontier,
will grind your teeth to a white dust something
like frost. You will wake screaming. Your room nightlit,
Santa won’t arrive in your doorway, but your mother will,
barefoot, in a nightgown and curlers with a sawed-off
shotgun dangling from her right hand. It will be
the most fragile thing you’ll ever see in your life.

 


About the Author: Ephraim Sommers is a doctoral fellow at Western Michigan University where he teaches creative writing. His work has recently appeared, or is forthcoming, in Beloit Poetry Journal, Copper Nickel, Cream City Review, Harpur Palate, The Journal, Prairie Schooner, RATTLE, TriQuarterly, Verse Daily, Word Riot, and elsewhere.

Artwork: Sean McCollum