Santa Claws

I’m walking through the borrego desert
and a piece of lightning catches my flesh
like a zipper zipped too fast
I do not break
this sensation comes like rain
but since I’ve moved to California
I’m used to thunder outside my spine
I look into the cloud:
an old car with a man inside
a man who looks like my father
or at least what I know my father looks like
a bald head
white beard
round belly
and frosty skin
it’s the tenth anniversary since I’ve seen his face
all I have is a description
for all I know, my dad could be Santa Claus
arriving once a year
I know this is lousy metaphor for my abandonment
but when you’re Jewish
Santa loses jolly texture
no Christmas
no dripping sleighbells
no coal stuffed stocking
naughty and nice lay upside down
you are not on his list
at the bus stop a boy recalls
the book where the baby bird falls from its nest
and repeats to strangers
are you my mother?
in brooklyn
he says
they ask, “Are you my daddy?”
laughing at my jagged punchlines
the ho ho ho
shuddering thunder at the mall
and the target parking lot
Are you my daddy
the chinese restaurant
Are you
the movie theatre
you know it’s the holidays
when you find familiar faces on strange skin
christmas carols shriek hail
pouring down undetermined ifs
if you were a figment
a fig ready to shrivel before
I grow beneath beatings
radiating memories bleeding mourning
it is christmas morning
and a knock echoes through my hollow house
I look through the window
and find lightning bouncing
no it’s snow
let it snow
let it snow
let it blizzard through me
the face that I see everywhere
is blizzarding through the window
finally cold enough
It’s the real Santa
sleigh bells bang
I tell rebecca
get up stairs
get up
float away or drown in ice
Santa screams
open the fucking door you cunt
reindeer gallop and clang
I am so glad we don’t have a chimney
for him to crawl down
no fireplace to beg for coal
mama’s out for milk and no cookies
and Santa Claus
claws at us
less saint and more bear
I can’t bear it
bare bones whispering
you are not real
you are not real
you are just a reel trying to catch me
I’m no longer a fish
I’m a woman in girls skin
skinning this ideal alive
this searching in empty pockets of my lungs
leaving the mall
filling the target parking lot
chinese restaurant and movie theater
washing lightning from my lips

clouds part an hour later
Santa leaves two rolex watches outside
I close the door
realizing it was never locked
I’m 12
and I stop believing.


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