Various and Sundry Poetry

Prayer for the Pear-Lime Salad orMy Mixed Feelings about the Holidays

By some weird cyclical coincidence,
the interfaith couples of the world are finally
forced to confront their worst nightmare -
the collision of the winter holidays.

Laurie's mother-in-law sees this as an opportunity
to introduce the good Jewish girl to the family's
hidden jewel, the great goyische specialty
of pear-lime salad.

The word "salad," Laurie says, is sheer conjecture.
An outright lie. It's not really a salad, after all,
but some cold gellid concoction offering
very little in the way of good nutrition.

But it'll be so festive, the mom-in-law insists.
So festive.

Yesterday, dodging traffic and late closings
of the town's bustling retail outfits,
I, too, began to hate the holidays.

I mean, the sheer madness of it, this trotting out
of santa hats and reindeer sweaters and last-minute sales,
these bottlenecks in the aisle of every grocery store,
the incessant ringing of Salvation Army bells.

And yes, the resurrection of
near-extinct family recipes,
which, like cockroaches,
keep surviving past all expectation.

Each year, it's the same old thing -
the race to the front of the line,
the careen into the good parking space,
the racking up of credit cards,
and the offer of a pear-lime salad
because it's just that time of year again
and we need to remember
how to be cheerful
and who should get which present
and all that other bullshit.

It's hard when the calendar
doesn't quite end on this note,
when you can't wrap things up
in the perfect harmony of
woolen knitwear and yuletide carols and jello molds.

I could not possibly fall for another stirring round
of Jingle Bells, or Woodland's cheerful Hanukah display.
Laurie wants to obliterate the happy salad
and douse her afternoon with white wine instead.

This bright display of vigorous optimism
is just camouflage. And the tiny, pulsing vibrations lying under
the cheering section of last-minute sweaters and pear-lime salad
tell the real story.

We're all delicate as frost,
permeable as nectarines.
The world outside the sales rack
is spinning so fast and so hard
no wonder we'd rather forget
how each day could break us all apart
like it was nothing at all.