Absent

We spent that Christmas
without you, amid the hollow
thrills of twinkling lights
in windows, amid childlike
holiday rituals that kept us safe
and sane, like little sleepwalkers
staggering blank-eyed
through some momentous,
awful dream.

I wrapped up a bracelet
you gave me many Christmases
ago, tucking it in the pocket
of my winter coat as I stepped
outside that afternoon,
so I could open it and pretend.
But my heart could not be tricked,
and I cried at my own foolishness.
Then I returned inside
to our children.

An endless string of Christmases
with their remembrances await us
as we move forward only as quickly
as space and time allow, which,
I concede, is excruciatingly slow.

And how wise was that
little girl in the Minnelli movie,
strangely practiced in the art
of loss and the space
that must contain it,
holding beautiful funerals
for her afflicted dolls, each
precious enough to require
homemade coffins,
backyard burials and
simple acceptance.

Winter yawns
and stretches before us
like an ambivalent animal
immune to our pain,
to our stumbling into a future
we didn’t ask for, for now
even with the inevitable
springs that follow,
wherever we look,
you will never be.

We are here
in our eternal winter
without you.

Claire Juno, © 2019