My Poetry - Here's a Christ Child for You

Here’s a Christ Child for You

At church we have the Christmas tradition
of providing gifts for the Children’s Home.
Paper ornaments, on each a name is written,
dangle lifelessly from the branches
of the Parish Hall Christmas tree.
We are given scrupulous instructions:
“A sweater, slippers, or anything
with the Panthers logo. Toiletries,
as long as they don’t contain alcohol,
are okay.”  A very benign and generic gift.
We each pluck a child hanging from the tree
and next Sunday return its gift to place
underneath. Then all the gifts are delivered and
yearly the Priest praises our 100% participation.
Our checks smile;
our sanctimonious sighing
swells the air.

This has been going on for many seasons:
I remember the church groups bring gifts
and eats; parading through my Home.
Some would put on programs with singing and skits;
some groups would preach and try to convert us.
And now I must tell you a difficult thing:
we didn’t like any of it.
We felt like freaks in a sideshow
as the tourists tramped through
clucking and muttering under their breath:
“Oh ain’t it awful, Oh what a shame such
nice healthy intelligent good-looking
kids have to live in a Home.”
Some of us demonstrated our rage by misbehaving.
That rascal Bud would scratch his armpits,
hop around on his haunches and growl “Ooo
Ooo, Ooo,” in his deepest pubescent voice.
The tourists were horrified; but we laughed
ourselves silly. How else to deny that
we were sad and lonely; hurt and afraid?

Some of the kids, their spirits long since broken
by “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune”
or under the fist of some adult, were
quiet and withdrawn to the church groups
and to everything else. We knew the church folk
came to salve their conscience,
to cleanse their wealth.
Are you really surprised we knew this?
Soon the church groups no longer
came to gape at us; they had their gifts
delivered to the Home instead.

Now I will tell you church people
what I would have wanted for Christmas.
Would you bring me to your house
for a home-cooked meal?
Nothing fancy; some hot, creamy, saucy food
like mashed potatoes and gravy will do.
Would you have me eat with your family–
just a normal meal with a typical family?
I promise I’d behave–
I’d be too intimidated by your abundance,
too awed by your lightness of life.
Would you share your richness of family with me;
discussing the day’s events, the news?
And during the natural course of conversation,
would you inquire as to my interests, favorite
classes, college plans; what I might do with my life?
Because in so doing you’d be suggesting my potential,
that I should apply, that I might even get accepted,
that I might have a future. I’d hear my heart pound
NoNo, NoNo, NoNo. I’d be taken aback by you
so easily suggesting these things to me
because I am so lonely and so afraid
and I don’t have the confidence to dream.
It takes some confidence to dream.

It takes some hope to dream.

Where will I get this; how can I get this?
Would you have me gather with your family
’round the piano after supper,
join in the carol singing?
Invite me to play: I’d give anything
to have access to a piano.
I want to learn, I want to play.
Would you show me your favorite books,
the artful pictures; read me a poem?
And at the close of the evening
would you ask me for a photo of myself?
So that you could hold me in your heart
not just at Christmastime,
but all the year around.