Christmas Eve had a Hundred Blue Lights

                                                                                             Wellswood, 1960s

No midnight mass. Just a star in the punk tree.
My sisters and I put on velvet
pantsuits our mother made. It took her months,
the lace on the wrists. Red, maroon, aquamarine.

My mother blonde-rinsed her hair,
coated her long nails in Pearl. She wore
a silver caftan and lovely rings—
amber topaz and a gold B.

When night came, she warmed little
sausages, wrapped bacon around dates.
Her drink was a Manhattan chased by a Pall Mall.
My father’s, red table wine.

We all knew there wasn’t always money.
We softened blue soap flakes to make snow
for the spruce tree. The cat ran up the trunk
one year, broke the stand and pretty glass balls.

Silver icicles you never find anymore.
At my best friend’s next door,
a revolving color wheel shined its magic
on her big white tree: blue, green, neon pink.

We each got a sip of sparkly. Grocery-store
caviar served on a polished tray. One year our father
gave Mom a real mink stole. The whole night
was wrapped in its realness, her mascara-streaked joy.

We opened one present before bed: a pack
of new panties, a pair of frilly socks.
We all knew there wasn’t enough money
and one year Dad was let go on the 23rd.
They didn’t tell us until the 26th.

We tacked our stockings to the bedroom door.
On the big street behind our house sirens
screeched towards the hospital. Somebody
must have been hurt real bad, but we were just
glad someone was being saved.

                                                                                       for Tina, Licia and Debbie

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