Minnesota Christmas

A poem by A.L. Shaff
Contributing writer

How can I tell my queen,
City-born homecoming-crowned,
Of my Father
Mounted on a pulp-loaded four-bottom sled
Bringing five children
One steel-runner Christmas gift?
She says I tell too many poor stories
But I know when the Baptists
Boxed oranges and apples
And renewed toys
For the poor that Christmas
And set them on our porch,
We took the apples and oranges
To the Branstads
Two miles down the road.
Better I sit with Axel and Valborg,
Her Swedish grandparents,
And chuckle over pitchknots for night heat and
Morning ice on the wash basin
And rain-sucking sand
That grew only jackpines and sandburrs.
How can I explain the shame
Of no shirt for the county spell-off?
I wore my wool jacket that whole December day
In a hot courthouse,
I tell her, and
Maybe Anna Shilling would have liked me
If I had a shirt.
Better I drive my four year old
On a road now without farms
To a hole in the ground
And crisped boards that once framed a house.
She’ll understand
Her one thousand year old father
Tells fairy stories
About when beasts of an ancient time
Pulled a man of an ancient time
Bringing five children a single Christmas sled.