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Christmas in Hampden

A Christmas poem is the latest contribution to the Alvarez Book Page.

You ain’t no virgin, his father said

as the boy drove west on Franklin Street

his first time behind the wheel

You’ve done this before, and he had,

one Christmas eve, a few years back

his father dead drunk and snoring

in the bed upstairs when Midnight Mass

let out and their maroon and crème

‘53 Plymouth blocked traffic on Lyndhurst street

with its rear end protruding where Pop

had tried to park it without the bicycle

in the trunk for his daughter because the shop

was closed when he finally arrived,

half-in-the-bag and rapping at the door

before coming home to yell at his family

for the injustices of shopkeepers and closing times.

Please move the car, boy his mother unhinged

from the shouting and crying, asked him

and soon the lights of the procession

from St. Thomas Aquinas were on him,

horns beeping, and he was scared shitless

and praying for a savior to be born

in the back seat as he turned the ignition

and gripped a large white steering wheel.

The boy crossed himself and put his foot

on the clutch, shifting into reverse, the way

his father did, then backed out into the street.  

From the window, his mother watched him

go into first gear for ten feet, and reverse again,

easing the car back in and over the curb. 

The boy pulled the car forward and dropped

it into position—his first attempt at parallel parking.

The families drove by him in festive attire—

fathers shaking their heads, wives huddled close

and the children in the back seat once they saw

he was not much older than they were

suddenly waiving and screaming the words,

“Merry Christmas.  Merry Christmas.”

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