—Public Domain Photos Courtesy of
Joe Nolan and Stephen Kingsnorth
YES, VIRGINIA, THERE IS A SANTA CLAUS
—Michael H. Brownstein, Jefferson City, MO
No snow came that winter,
the brutal blizzard winds didn't arrive,
we stepped outside in shorts and sweaters,
kept the heat turned off.
Two weeks before Christmas,
we wondered how Santa would park his sleigh,
didn't know he was busy in the North Pole
not with gifts for the world,
but hope and prayer.
A week before Christmas, 2023,
a glow covered the planet touching everyone,
and he came early with a message of love—
when we woke the children were different—
they volunteered to help the homeless,
brought wonder and joy to hospitalized children,
fully funded UNICEF—
and the big-block stores offered free-to-all days,
billionaires gave away their money
(we, too, can live on change)—
Russia left the Ukraine with a parade of peace,
Israel partitioned their soil
and made a nation for the Palestinians,
and the war in Central Africa no one talked about,
whispered away into a vast silence.
Today, December 25, 3023, a thousand years later,
we celebrate the Great Christmas in history,
a world holiday, the Victory of Christmas, 2023.
THE KENTUCKY COFFEE TREE
—Michael H. Brownstein
drops long seed pods on the school playground,
the walkway to the front door, at the curb,
and just about everywhere in the grass near the
My students and I collect them for our science
open each slender pod as if they were a surprise
and it's not even close to the Christmas holidays.
They research the tree, the pods, the poisons within
make graphs of the average number of seeds per
find the median, the mode, and they tell me,
We are too young to drink coffee, even if this may
and we will not chew the seeds without letting them
they are toxic. Better to drink tea from moringa
teas made from herbs and flowers, dandelions even,
but you are old enough. Let's roast them and see
what you think.
So we do. Roast them for a long time—they are
and they tell me, Didn't you make us grow
When they were ready, you sampled them first.
Remember the field trip where you ate greens in
The seeds have roasted long enough. This is what
they meant to say.
Try it. They are engaged, glued to me, my cup of
boiling now in water—a long time—and they say,
Time. Drink it now. So I do, a tentative sip, too hot,
another, cool it down, a large gulp, smile, drink a
and it is coffee, not that strong, but interesting and
When Christmas break arrives, they bring brightly
every one of them Kentucky coffee beans from
already roasted and ready to brew, and this makes
—Nolcha Fox, Buffalo, WY
We invited him to Christmas, even though we knew
he’d grumble, whine, complain, and raise a fuss:
wine too sour, roast beef mooing,
no one grateful for his wisdom and his charm.
When he finally left, we’d sigh and smile.
We could face the new year
and eleven months without him,
until he died and left us everything he owned.
—Stephen Kingsnorth, Coedpoeth, Wrexham, Wales
It was alone the Christmas cheer,
a faint hurrah for Boxing Day,
for servants’ leave, just annual,
one wholly theirs with family.
The stable berth, red letter day,
that holy of church calendar,
but then the weary left the fold
to journey, birthplace, where begun.
For born as poor in servitude,
their lowly status claimed ordained,
yet some would bring their gifted box
from which that day had taken name,
The season’s greetings shared around,
unlikely so myrrh, frankincense,
while gold would overstate the case,
more wisdom, those who know their place.
How did the master, squire in hall,
survive the time when left alone,
no one about to bow and scrape—
just holly bough and mistletoe.
Those berries red and waxy white,
the latter but a parasite,
which gain their life-force, nutrients,
by sucking blood, through bark by bite.
We hand down will and testaments,
rich, valued signs inherited,
the festive customs we assumed,
now stark, stamp-sealed, red letter days.
Routine monotonies stepped back
as for a season, greeting us,
our world, enchantment, fanciful
with colour, bright, gold glitter sights,
those holidays found fantasy.
Those Christmas raptures stretch through life
from merry childhoods of delight;
as muscle memories remind
of much exotic, standard gone,
with stranger ways of countdown, plays
in metaphor, incarnate marks.
They will not know, great grand of mine,
stretched hose deformed, in stocking heel,
pink sugar mouse of fondant cream,
one walnut, tangerine in tow,
laid bed end, until dawn arose.
Ham breakfast, just on Christmas morn—
from where derived I have no clue—
so white unbrandied pudding sauce;
tree presents lodged in white-washed branch—
our pine pretence sans needle drop—
each sibling bought, spread through the week,
for each received, so each will give,
particulars I thought the norm.
Heirlooms preserved, family quirks,
like ancient lights, no safety first.
Now others knew no hanging row
from mantelpiece, fun fantasy,
or fireside breast to shout out list,
with carrot served, by sherry, hearth.
But daily children trade at school.
and playground chatter reared its head
presumed shared practice overheard,
as talk comparing riches spread,
and lodged in mind, those absent gifts.
Though reassuring love full known,
that marker set, in time deployed;
when grown, did institute what missed,
socks stretched from bulbous toe to knee.
As Christ from Xmas time excised,
our customary care required.
—Michael H. Brownstein
Santa's empty sled flew through the moonlit night Christmas Eve escorted by thousands of reindeer. A million Canada geese moved in front, creating a giant V to ease the draft. A billion billion doves arrived bright with an angelic inner glow…
The lioness looked to the sky, awed. The wolf stopped chasing a rabbit. Great white sharks surfaced. On the battlefields a great silence reigned.
Christmas Day, olive branches covered the earth, no one was angry about poorly selected gifts, no one woke with hate, and Santa rested after carrying his heaviest load ever—love.
A reminder that there will be
no Sac. Poetry Center reading
tonight, due to the holidays.
For upcoming poetry happenings in
Northern California and otherwheres,
UPCOMING NORCAL EVENTS
in the links at the top of this page—
and keep an eye on this link and on
the daily Kitchen for happenings
that might pop up
—or get changed!—
during the week.
Photos in this column can be enlarged by
clicking on them once, then clicking on the x
in the top right corner to come back to Medusa.
Find previous four-or-so posts by scrolling down
under today; or there's an "Older Posts" button
at the bottom of this column; or find previous poets
by typing the name of the poet or poem
into the little beige box at the top
left-hand side of today’s post; or go to
Medusa’s Rapsheet at the bottom of
the blue column at the right
to find the date you want.
Would you like to be a SnakePal?
All you have to do is send poetry and/or
photos and artwork to
firstname.lastname@example.org. We post
work from all over the world—including
that which was previously published—
and collaborations are welcome.
the snakes of Medusa are always hungry—
for poetry, of course!