By Abby E. Murray
Santa arrives at the chemical bay
on Joint Base Lewis McChord
in a Stryker, 8AM sharp on Saturday,
Colonel’s orders, free of charge.
Santa has an Alabama twang.
Santa says he’d like to make
a quick announcement, his voice
ringing in rented speakers
that broadcast Christmas carols
as well as the pale whistle
of some far off interference.
Santa wants to say he’s thankful
not just for the men who took time
from their training schedules to eat
pancakes with us this morning,
but the families too, who go through
what they go through and I imagine,
for Santa, sacrifice is something like
climbing through a keyhole or
bursting from a busted radiator.
It takes time, it takes practice,
it takes and takes and takes.
Horror and bitterness are naughty spirits
within us. Acceptance is nice.
The children wear paper crowns
with antlers shaped like their own hands
until a sergeant distributes
gas masks by the bouncy house.
The wives aren’t hungry,
they’re never hungry.
There are enough pancakes
to feed a landfill, enough coffee
to thaw a block of sidewalks.
I have crept so far into myself
I can hardly see my own front line
but I am certain both hemispheres
of my brain are begging for peace.
Santa wants us to form a line.
We do. Friends, I can still be saved.
My heart is open as a coal mine.
Abby E. Murray teaches creative writing at the University of Washington Tacoma, where she offers free poetry workshops to soldiers and military families, serves as editor in chief for Collateral, a journal that publishes work focused on the impact of military service, and teaches poetry workshops at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Her poems can be found in recent or forthcoming issues of Prairie Schooner, Rattle, Stone Canoe, and the Rise Up Review. She lives near Tacoma and writes often about what it means to resist when your spouse is a soldier.