Painted small town, the old man in the hardware store knows my daddy’s name
so he asks, same color like last year,
but the heavy tin can, blue and white stripes, Berger 303, already on the counter.
Whitewashed trees, same color as the bare verandah,
Fresh coats cover tiny handprints,
Memories made, children who learned to sing
A new song this year, composing the symphony of their lives,
Christmas flowers, called snow on the mountain although the temperature never dips below sixty-five,
Hibiscus hedge decorated with festive red and green balls,
Loose tinsel blowing against concrete walls,
Christmas breeze reminds us we’re alive
One more year is all we asked for and look we got it,
Even though Grandma died last December
Look now we can remember
And not drown in the tears that fill out eyes.
Painted small town, rocks lined up to mark out a walkway to every house
Somewhere, someone reciting a poem about not a creature stirring, not even a mouse,
Everywhere, fruitcake smells,
On the radio, jingle bells,
The neighbor who slaps his wife around is taking the night off, wrapping presents for sleeping kids,
Carolers braving the chill of a tropical silent night, sipping spiked eggnog through unnecessary plastic lids,
The air ribboned with the innocence of baby’s dreams,
Santa Claus and reindeer land on thatched roofs and someone screams,
Because they think it’s the thief from down the street,
Running to the window on nervous feet,
Clock strikes midnight,
In a back room, someone wails when everyone else gathers by the flickering pepper light.
Painted small town, cheap whitewash to cover muddy tracks of a year
just like the last, a year of sins, intended mistakes, carefully orchestrated accidents,
from the backyard, soda bottles gathered and washed out to exchange for the shandy that make it easy to bear
to sit around a decorated holiday table with the one you hate
to say Happy Chris’mus, man, when your enemy comes through the gate,
the will to not take one of your carefully arranged whitewashed stones and crack his head for everything he
did to you last week,
it’s the happiest time of the year, you speak
life above everything else that went wrong
and forget your memories in a drunken rendition of the manger song.
Painted small town,
Postcard worthy Christmas scene on the big stage,
What secrets hidden beneath hasty brushstrokes?
What memories stifled and drowned?
For our day of balloons, lace-festooned dresses and peppermint smells,
Do we bury our rest-of-the-year selves,
What do you ask in exchange?
The above is an original poem I wrote about some of my memories of Christmas in my Jamaican hometown. I’d love if you shared it but please give me credit if you do. Thanks.
Copyright (c) 2016 by Karen Wright