Joseph Boyle | Christmas in the spleen

Christmas could be Florida,
pearl necklaces and fascinators,
an expected phone call from your shy admirer:
Ship to shore?
alright put him through.
Garland spun along wrought iron railings.
Sweating in a low-slung chair.

It could be bits of apple skin
stuck between teeth, irritant
thoughts of pure evil.

I saw a body
tucked away in a silver bag
in the southbound lane of the freeway.

Depression, nudity, a ticking news feed
laid under me,
wheels turning up I-90.

O, my!
an old woman passed a week ago
in Watertown, N.Y.
my mother tells me when I arrive.
An addict returned to the needle
in a friend’s family, in frequent
white irish families.
A metallic suggestion of bile on the tongue.

For a while
December’s vigil for a new Christ
is renewal in a shattered time. So spilleth old wisdom.
The peace you find
when the godless air rakes your cheek,
is that defeat

for some. Comfort for others
and who does that make,
who’re the weaker ones?

Listen to enough cable news,
read enough transgressive fiction,
things get hellish fast if you don’t pay attention.

Desire twists itself into knots of depression,
seeps under the walls of your dreams.
Maybe trouble getting off
or an allergy you never knew you had,
alcohol just another drag
each meal a mouthful of wilted greens.

The morning commute is steel-dead,
the geometry of the roadway flattens
each vehicle into a Giger figure,
each passenger, persistent and dumb
labors toward the mouth of the barrel
or resting in the scoured chamber
No! of course not
my atheist says That implies a Finger.
I say You imply a Trigger.
Meanwhile there is oil on my hand
and it won’t come off.

Dear, it’s not all that bad.
The quarterly bonus arrives without fail.
By hook and crook the rent is paid.
Coffee keeps its steady flow.

Full to burst with dirty jokes and rum, the Finger
reappears along the hem
of a floral dress.
There are holiday parties, snows that rival gemstones.
The spontaneity of love persists.

There is family after the hangover.
Little Queen Jane beside me offers garbled words,
giggles til its time to pack up the van.
When she’s in middle age, politics and plague
will roll us flat.

I hope she can take the heat.
I hope she’s ready for a corner
when she turns the corner.

Age hollows us out, pumps us full of gas
and we expand, accordion-like,
page following page.

Somewhere in america’s fantasy belt a priest stands,
for a sleeping veteran the flag unfurls.
A poet sits and writes in fits and starts.
With luck, she’ll let us in,
live long enough to say
All’s right in our reluctant world,
and turn the rhymes over with our teeth.
Love, for just a moment, can be got easy.

All christmas night the trees burn bright:
candles, LED, needles
and aluminum, scotch pine and PVC.

Joseph Boyle lives in Sacramento, works as a counselor and spends his free time metabolizing sugars and admiring the way wind moves through trees. He holds an MA in Creative Writing from University College Dublin. His poems have appeared in Fahmidan Journal, Book of Matches, The Madrigal, Inksounds, and others.

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