‘under the tree’


it's hard to celebrate christmas
in the center of a crime scene,
but we do it every year,
in the living room,
gathered around a tree
that has been dead for several months
and has been spray-painted green.

one year, we all forced smiles
and jumped at the ringing phone
when one of us was missing.

another year,
we all burst into tears
upon the unwrapping
of a tiny pair of jeans.

last year was uneventful,
though something small and dark  
was smoldering beneath the surface
in the manner of a discarded cigarette
about to ignite a forest fire.

gathering around the piano,
or near the fire built once a year for the occasion,
or in a strained semi-circle with one parent on each end,
we do our best to rise above the individual sins
and make merry.