O Christmas Tree
Daddy and I steered the tractor past
and into the woods, down a road
I had never before noticed,
to a sedge field, to a cedar,
taller than my father.
Cold and cloud cover gave me hope
for snowfall, and the road
curved away among trees crowned by mistletoe.
In our living room, Mama, Sister, and I
loaded the prickly branches
with strings of lights, bulbs bigger
than my thumb, and we added
balls, garlands, tinsel, a singing angel.
My job was to check the water
in the stand, red heart, simple ventricle—
I always filled it to the brim.
But all too soon old tannenbaum
dried to shimmering tinder,
and on New Year’s Eve, after we unloaded,
unwrapped the limbs,
Mama helped me carry the Christmas tree
to the trash barrel, let me strike paper matches
until the leaves became
a rush of chattering-twirling
sparks, decorating the tree ascending.
--John Thomas York, © 2012