Home for the Holidays
Marjorie Stelmach

Home for the Holidays

Back home, you take up November’s posture, forearms tight
       at your waist, palms clamped to your elbows.
You drag out thick socks against the chill of morning floorboards,
       scavenge the closet shelves for scarves and gloves,
surprised to find what you need where you’ve always found it.

Down at the shore, the walkers are older, slower, the greetings
       that pass between you seem just a shade more formal.
Your unspoken wish for each couple you pass, for each
       lone stroller: that this be a holiday season without
undue change, without fresh sorrow.

Raw winds gust over the water in textures of etch and abrasion.
       Brisk winds, you insist, bracing. But you turn toward home.
“Spider cloth” Lawrence called skies like this—flocked and scoured
       like the decades-old wallpaper hung in the upstairs hallway
scrubbed of its pattern by a rush of children glad to be off.

Evenings, you walk the old neighborhood, marking the changes:
       most of the climbing trees gone, the privacy hedges higher.
It’s all low-maintenance siding now. Landscaping trucks in the drives.
       None of your school friends remain, and the church
is a different denomination.

You’ll get through the holidays first, then arrange for the sale.
       You’ll hold yourself tight, dress in layers, stay close
to home, making sure they both have all they could wish for.
       All this, for as long as your visit lasts:
this month, the next.

Marjorie Stelmach

is the author of Walking the Mist (Ashland Poetry Press, 2021), as well as five other collections of poetry. Her work has appeared in Boulevard, Cincinnati Review, Gettysburg Review, Image, Iowa Review, New Letters, and other journals.