Serving House: A Journal of Literary Arts
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SHJ Issue 16
Spring 2017

Taking Down Christmas

by Deborah Allbritain

You unhook 90 year old Santa from the top branch, his jacket
thin as winter maples, the three maids-a-milking so frail

they nearly crumble, then your favorite,
		the emerald tear-drops,
silvered interiors of stars. Always, out in front,

your daughter’s little photo ornaments
		dating back twenty years—
One day God willing, she will tether them
			to her own family tree,

ask you from your recliner by the fire, to sing, but for now
you close the lid on this flimsy cardboard box:
			Harding Ornaments,

it still says in your mother’s illegible scrawl. Months later,
when you return to finish this poem, according to Facebook,

it’s National Day of Gratitude and you choke on the irony:
Last weekend in ICU, your girl listless, overdosed on Tequila

and codeine, almost didn’t make it, but now she’s bending over
you kissing your forehead, hair twisted in a high bun,
				heading out

for class again. Mom, You’re the strongest person I’ve ever known
and she’s out the door. But you are still sitting on that chair
					in room 523,

your spine a fused arch over her bed, as they force her to drink
the charcoal liquid, as she vomits, sleeps for hours
			with her black tongue

pushed between her lips, they draw more blood,
				wrap the bedrails
with flannel in case she seizes. Wouldn’t you like a cot,
				Mrs. Allbritain

they keep asking but by then the room floats in early light
					and the only
sound besides her pulse blipping across the screen
				is her spoon,

scraping ice chips from a paper cup as you stand gazing
at the parched hills of September,
			still in your blue cocktail dress

heels kicked in a corner, your child focused on crunching
				and swallowing,
the heat wavering in the parking lot below,
			the crackly voice from the bed

asking for Mac ’n Cheese—and you turn as if the words
				had come from
Christ himself. You wander out of the temple in search of food.


—Selected for Honorable Mention in the competition for the Steve Kowit Poetry Prize 2016, and first published in the San Diego Poetry Annual 2016-17 (Garden Oak Press, February 2017); appears here with permissions from both poet and publisher.


SHJ Issue 16
Spring 2017

Deborah Allbritain

lives in San Diego, California where she continues to write, study, and teach poetry. Publications and awards include: The Antioch Review, The Cortland Review, The Taos Review, Michigan Review, Main Street Rag, Connecticut River Review, Cimarron Review, and Serving House Journal. Her poetry has been anthologized in Stand Up Poetry: The Anthology; The Unmade Bed (Harper Collins); The Book of Birth Poetry; and In the Palm of Your Hand (Tilbury House). In 2015, she received two Pushcart Prize nominations, and her poem “The Fire” was a finalist for the Wabash Poetry Prize.

“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury