Miracle on Cerrillos

November 29, 2008

The following poem was written when I was a tutor at St. John’s College in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

I went down yesterday
To the Villa Linda Mall.
I drove there in my Volkswagen
To see what I could find.
The name of J.C. Penney
Was emblazoned on the wall,
As though portending blessings
Or a broadening of the mind.

A portly man in a red suit
Came through the men’s room door.
I had a funny feeling
That I’d seen that man before.
The hoary hair of wisdom
Hung like mosses from his chin.
I looked at him intently
And he brightened with a grin.

“You must be Santa Claus,” I said,
Attempting a surmise,
“Unless you are some other man
In Santa Claus’ disguise.”
On hearing this, he laughed aloud
His trademark “Ho! ho! ho!”
Exhibiting his identity
As clear as Arctic snow.

“I am the very person that
You think I am,” he said.
“What else would I be doing here
All dressed in white and red?”
He laughed again profoundly, making
All my bones to shake.
I knew somehow implicitly
He could not be a fake.

I asked him then if he would tell
The causes of his stay,
And how long he was visiting
Us here in Santa Fe.
“I am on contract with this mall
To come in coat and cap
And sit here and be photographed
With children on my lap.

“For folks have fallen on hard times
Back home at the North Pole,
And we’ve been much affected by
The growing ozone hole.”
A sadness seemed to fill his eye;
I saw he bore a freight
Of anxious care with his great bulk
And his prodigious weight.

We stood awhile there talking
By a neon-lighted store
While shoppers in their multitudes
Passed by along the floor.
They seemed to be possessed by some
Uncanny, primal urge,
Oblivious to every thought
Except the will to splurge.

At length, he had to go to work,
And so he shook my hand,
Which sank into his glabrous grasp
Like dry wood in quicksand.
And, so it was, we parted then,
Each on his way to wend,
And our confabulation came
Regrettably to end.

By now, the brilliant orb of day
Had sunk beneath the earth,
And to my trusty Volkswagen
I trudged with pensive tread.
I found it strange that Santa Claus,
The man of blessed mirth,
Should be reduced to working malls
To earn his daily bread.
And so I came back to my home
And ate my humble fare.
God grant us all this Christmas
To remember why we care.

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