Christmas Sunday, ’22

I saw Santa smoking a cigarette outside a dive last night.
He was groping his beard the way only alcohol can teach us to touch,
howling at the smoke cast sky like a shower drain
blocked by uncountable years of unattended build up, yet still glugging through.
He said he retired the team colors for a black turtle neck six years ago,
let go of sentiments and peppermint sticks and settled for perpetual
spearmint on the rocks.
He’s lost over thirty pounds and flat irons his hair now, refuses to see it cut;
It nearly reaches the nape of his back. He’s picked up,
harmonica, growling at kids, and an affinity for fedora hats.
Spitting droplets of dropped consonants, the misaligned vowels landing on my skin,
he drops
a leaded hand on my shoulder for stability and says, “Claus it was a lie, listen, kid.”
He says there is nothing in that sky but arthritis and impending bullshit,
there’s no hope in neon lights, only toxic metals and formaldehyde burning.
He says open mic poetry is for the lonely to shout
at something less empty than the wind.
An hour later behind the microphone he shakes
his menthol candy cane and implores nobody move,
only listen. He’s threatening to go home and mix diethyl ether into stockings.
Says to watch for a sugar plum explosion on the corner
of Gold Star and West Boylston tomorrow morning.
He’s lost it. And I say he’s lost to the chick to my right
as if any of us standing in this parking lot at 2 a.m. on a Monday
have sound and peaceful minds.
I say he’s lost as if I’m doing perfectly fine.
He dips the microphone with his body, leaning forcefully with intent,
somehow balancing two shots and a cigarette in one hand, molesting a book against the microphone in the next.
The house band moans it’s background saxophone
a note or two as he confesses to abandoning his wife,
“I’d rather die quickly alone than slowly by your side.”
He pauses, grumbles, there’s no truth in madness, only excuses,
then staggers off into the shadows of dimming street lights.
When I saw Santa, smoking outside of a dive,
he gripped my shoulder and shook my body
the way only alcohol can teach us to use our hands.
It was like speaking to an old friend after 6 years of questionable motivations.

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