• Vol. 08
  • Chapter 11
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It Was Once Upon Such A Long Time Ago

Long before the fires burnt all the forests,
we hung tangerines and lumps of coal
from Christmas trees, and in December

we’d chase about the forest, and my dad,
with his shiny axe in hand, chopped down
an unmistakably perfect pine tree that
was as straight as a lighthouse. And,

on its branches, we clipped candles lit
with real flames, hung tangerines from
crimson ribbons, and black lumps of coal.

Those tangerines were gold in goodness,
and those sooty lumps of coal … so dark,
stood for everything that we hoped not.

And we believed in every blessed miracle.
And Santa.
In Prancer and Vixen.  At least, until
all the needles fell off the tree.

But that was long before way-back-when,
when everyone whirled about in cars
without ever a thought. Grandparents
boarded an aeroplane, and always
celebrated every Christmas with us.


It Was Once Upon Such A Long Time Ago

Grandpa only asked for a smallish box
of fluorescent sky-blue saltwater taffy.
Grandma, just her Turkish Delight.

But, no one cuts down trees anymore.
Trees are as sacred as rosaries.
Trees are in museums, not in a house,

not dressed up in lights and weighted
down with citrus and coal, or cut into
firewood after the turkey’s picked clean.

But we still remember our old traditions.
Tangerines, a lump of coal, and Grandpa’s
fluorescent sky-blue saltwater taffy.

We stick them together. Stack them in piles.
Piled into towers. On tables. On shelves.
In windows. Oranges, blue taffy, and coal.
On ribbons. Oranges, blue taffy, and coal.

And we always recite that poem about
Dasher and Dancer, Prancer and Vixen,
Comet, Cupid, and Donner and Blitzen.