Amy Barlow Liberatore… stories of lost years, wild times, mental variety, faith, and lots of jazz

Tag Archives: Christmas Tree

Broken Angel
(based on “Angel,” my poem for Poetic Bloomings)

Back then
Back when Christmas was fun
And it was Santa’s birthday again

We had a tree
Same one every year,
Balsam fir, short needles,
dressed in pure red
A huge Mrs. Claus,
a “mama tree”

Cherry lights strung to perfection
Middle sis righting every
incorrectly placed bulb ‘til it was
PERRRRRfect

Then the satinsheen red ornaments
(a hand-me-down from Aunt Pris,
the holiday window dresser at Fowler’s)
So fragile, handled like dynamite
lest one explode, one wrong move
revealing shards of thin glossy insides

We had no angel atop our tree, though
we three made many in Sunday school
and in every single grade –
back when Christmas was not a whisper
but a SHOUT ON COMMAND: HE IS BORN!
and to hell with the handful of Jews in the hallways
(some wishing they had trees and stockings too)

But angels? Our folks’d have to pick
one of our three… they’d have no trinity
And white would spoil the symmetry

Our angel, last year’s broken one
when a single slip lopped the top off
Stuck on top of the tree, inverted
Blood rushing to its head
crowned by needly thorns

“Lllight it up, plllug it in, Bud!
Girllls, outen the llllights!” slurred Mom
And there it stood
flooding the living room with
every gimmering shade of red

From the street, our tree was
a blazing hearth streaming
light onto snow that glowed
vaguely pink in its wake

“Oh, look,” said a neighbor
as folks strolled admiring
one another’s holiday handiwork,
“The Red Light District,
the Barlows’ cat house is once again
open for business!”

* * * * * * * * * *

That bulb on top
the bloodied, upside-down talisAngel of
all the other 360-some days of the year

Behind perfect suburban clapboard exterior
the heartbeat of interior fear
of inferiority comples flexing
my first scrawny girlish muscles that were
destined to beat up only myself

We’ve grown
Our kids’ angels, our new objects d’nativite
With grown-up arms, we
beat back the Barlow Bordello curse
But Christmas is still sad for me

Those shimmering red bulbs
Cherry ambulance lights on rescue that never came
A cry for help but
Dad’s hand was clamped over my mouth

A broken angel.

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

This experience is based solely on my own experience and should not reflect on my siblings in any way other than before the asterisks (but middle sis WAS very meticulous about lighting, and I know she’d admit that, ha ha).

I wrote “Angel,” the part up to the “snowflake” asterisks, for Poetic Bloomings (childhood memories), but Sunday Scribblings wanted a poem about a Talisman, and this version goes deeper into the meaning of that ‘little red angel’ on our tree. Also for dverse Poets Open Mic on Tuesday, and as always, stuck in the stocking at Poets United, my “every day is a holiday” safe space. Peace, Amy