Seventh Christmas

by Brianna Ballard

She cried when she lost at cards;
we wouldn’t play by her rules.
Christmas crackers’ pops made her scream
first with the fear of loud noises,
and then with delight;
pink crown, riddle, and a tie clip
she said was a hair barrette.
At dinner she raked the stuffing across her plategarlic
and bread and spicesmade
a painting, resembling Pollock’s,
with the revolting foods we gave her.
She only ate pieces
when she thought we weren’t looking.

She liked the dusty old drum set;
tinny gunshots resonated from the den
and she gave us a beat
to wash the dishes to;
she played us her own jazz number
on the out-of-tune baby grand,
and then scratched a line in the antique wood
with the sharp point
of her brand-new barrette.

She was all blonde hair and blue eyes,
a purple velvet dress,
and tiny shoes with a mistletoe strap.
Her seventh Christmas was ripe
with the mystery of Santa and his toys,
the old traditions
hidden away in the corners of our house;
her advent calendar was empty,
but we had stopped counting each Christmas by thenholding
out an extra week
for the party on New Year’s Eve
that she wasn’t invited to.

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