The O'Hara Christmas

I was 11 the Christmas
my father sat in a cracked wingback
reading John O'Hara under Bourboned breath,
straining the words through his teeth,
stowing their hard stone centers
like ball-shot in his reddened cheeks

while my mother listened
to Ramsey Lewis sing about the sounds
of the season as she downed nog
after nog minus the egg and cream,
heavy on the Wild Turkey and shelled pecans
for winter pies into a bowl
decorated with festive silver bells.

Every now and then
she flicked a nut-meat at father,
bounced it off his head just like Gordie Howe
bounced pucks off the net and she'd sing
"Goddamn ye mirthless gemmamin"
and laugh and flick and flick and laugh
until he smiled at her over his page,
rolling the stones
in his cheek with his tongue,
so careful not to let them fly

and my brother, who was 9 that year,
without my 2 extra terms of smart,
looked up from his Etch-A-Sketch
long enough to ask what was so funny about
getting pelted with pecans and being
forced to listen to the Ramsey Lewis Trio
when we should be tapping our feet
to the holiday stylings
of Dave Seville and his Chipmunks

but my father just kept his smile and said
"it’s for ourselves to know, son,
it’s for ourselves to know-"

10 Christmases and an American Lit course later,
I realized why he was so good at tonguing stones.

1 comment:

Igloo said...

I like the way you tell a story - I feel like your poem is inspired by prose, but not in that frustrating way where you read a poem and it's as though someone just wrote out a paragraph and went through it randomly adding line breaks.