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Tornadoes That Ruined Christmas

Jan Carroll

Tornados that Ruined Christmas are famed
on the Weather Station, TVs up on brackets
at the checkout, Festival Foods. Not really ashamed,

the man ahead of me turns with a sheepish grin,
admits he was here an hour ago but forgot
the mayo he was sent for, focused more on gin.

The mom of three cherubs behind me hasn’t had REM
sleep for so long, her life is a slo-mo cyclone
but she wouldn’t trade the world for them.

The angel adding up our debts sets her sight
on the song she’ll sing at candlelight service
standing next to her true love at midnight

though neither his nor her parents like
this arrangement. She doesn’t care, what matters
is his mouth, her mouth, close to the same mic.

The bag boy’s sick to death of asking “Paper
or plastic?” but refuses to frown – like a shepherd
some day he’ll earn enough to escape here

and take his dad and his younger siblings
to live somewhere nice, somewhere warmer,
no more arguments, no more quibblings

over money. He gazes at the postal substation
where lots of people wait to ship gifts
far away and wonders, frustrated,

if the family will like what he found
at Savers, wrapped with cut-up inside-out
grocery bags, drew Santas on, and bound

with old hair ribbons. I’m buying one apple,
one orange for each of my sons,
like my father had, trying to grapple

with the Great Depression, carefully shoved
in his Christmas stocking, a luxury then,
a wonder. How lucky, they said, to be so loved.

Jan Carroll’s books include River (2015) and With What’s Left: Gardening, Earth-Tending, and Keeping On in the Midst of Climate Crisis (November 2019). She facilitates small poetry-writing groups and the local reading series 6x6. Her website is jancarrollpoetryetc.net.