From the Archives

The Killer Whale of Christmas

Debora Greger

The wrong bells rang through the late fall,
falling on fake snow spread over green lawn
in Fresno. Carols caught in the throats
of loudspeakers nailed to cedars along the street.

Over the red of taillights,
over the strings and swags of blue,
the old moon struggled to climb.
Why had the music stopped?

A plywood Spiderman crouched in a palm tree.
He was all that stood between a Grinch
twice his size and the small Holy Family
finding shelter under an oleander.

Across the street, Santa Claus wore sunglasses.
He rode a life-size killer whale,
his elves on dolphins. Oh, to raise a rushlight
and follow a dog out of the hills,

through vineyard and olive grove,
toward some star! But the air was thick
with cars come to make pilgrimage.
In the bare yard of the poet of Van Ness Avenue

I stood, a forest of ink chained to my leg.
If time lay down to sleep,
it was in a snowdrift of spun polyester
at the foot of a snowman next door, not here.

Sewn of sailcloth, inflatable,
he would be found, come morning,
shriveled under a thin skin of dew.
Even on the rim of the new world,

you could hear the age of Augustus rolling on,
an orb, an orange falling, speechless,
into the dry gutter of December.
Might a shepherd come walking out of an old story?

O my beautiful, pitiful millennium!

Debora Greger has published many books of poetry, including Western Art. She taught for many years at the University of Florida
Originally published:
October 1, 2005

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