Seagulls sing carols
Outside the aluminum-foil-plastered windows
The oven is on, for the heat;
I doubt she bakes.
Her eyes sink into her smile;
the rest of her hides under layers of blankets, and beside the bed
is a long-forgotten plate of chopped fruit
as shriveled as she is.
Privileged, we are the only ones she opens her door for.
Another cough racks her tiny frame
momentarily muting the perpetual TV
that tries to tell her what she should crave at this most blessed time of year
when all that glitters is cold.
We’re supposed to take her to the clinic because of her pneumonia.
She will do no such thing.
But she’d love to have some toffees and walnuts.
We can’t find any walnuts at the Army and Navy,
but when she sees the toffees
the child inside her leaps.
For hours, we are her ears;
she remembers to us a childhood on the reserve
skipping the parts that hurt
dwelling on parts that matter, like when she was seven and her father
taught her Our Father in his language.
Now, she prays it for the junkies who steal from her.
When the Kingdom breaks all the way through
and life returns to her legs
I hope the forests are greener and grander
Because I want to run with her there, get her to
teach me how to tell a salmonberry from an elderberry
show me how to rub off the prickly hazelnut skins
with the calloused soles of her feet
like she did with her sisters.
Then she will know that she was
not just another prisoner in the pretty paper-box of a poem
but one for whom I prayed.