December 25th

There is nothing poetic about
standing outside in high heels in thirty below weather.

A few weeks earlier, your younger sister slips
on the ice in front of the same church you find yourself crying in
at 11:59 on December 24th. She falls and hits her tooth,
the bloodstained white cloth an ironic display of seasonal colours.

It isn’t Christmas dinner without homemade pierogis
and your mother’s complaints. You can smell the cookies
the same way you can feel her disappointment: hot, familiar,
and strewn all over the tiny, messy kitchen.

You don’t want to seem greedy or ungrateful, but you know
that your aunt forgot about your birthday again. When you unwrap
her present, your mother will whisper, “I think it’s for both,”
and ignore the first tear that slips down your cheek.

You’re always late coming out of the church, lingering after the hymns
chime to an end to hug teachers and friends that know you better
than the family you arrived with does. The thought comes
as the stark night air meets your tear-stained cheek: you hate your birthday.

While your father stays up and drinks long into the cracks
of Christmas morning, you fade up the stairs and slip out of your black
tights and into your pink bedspread. This kind of sorrow is falsely soothed
the next morning with candy canes striped blood red and white.

There is nothing poetic about
standing outside in high heels in thirty below weather.