Phone Conversation with My Sister on Christmas Day

The trees are dead, she said.
Peering outside, it was true:
A still-barren sixty degrees, sun
meekly reveling in its new warm.

A week ago, our mother cut down the tree
we picked apples from as children.
They were small, red, never delicious–
brown and burrowed with worms

because anything sweet from the skin
isn’t as sweet as you might think.
All those colorful lights we tied around
the necks of plastic and decoration,

the way we choked the holiday,
wrung out the last ounces of life
from the animal ornaments on every pine.
The walrus with the broken tusk.

The hyena whose laugh can nearly
be heard. As if anthropomorphizing could
ever atone for the past but I would love
to believe in a world where a fragment of

a tusk means something is truly missing–
perhaps rickety laughter ringing through
thin walls, dominant as the wooden organ
moans his mantra: everything in this world

is connected. Not every connected thing
is aware of its living, its connection.
But the way fingers dance deep
resonance out of the organ’s shifty teeth

to provide holiness for the changed house
is the gift we must open for ourselves
with our hands full of music– a sourness
in harmony, an ode to shriveled apples.

(originally published in Flatbush Review, Winter 2016)

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