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by Barrett Warner

    After I set up the tree
    I have to retrain the dog...
    it makes her think she's outside,
    and then I decorate
    with costume jewelry and lace
    cut away from underwear, stockings.
    That night Sara calls from the desert,
    "Problem" she says. "I know" I say.
    "I got the ornaments" she says.

    I'm cutting angel shapes
    out of her nightgown as we talk.
    Her voice is odd, steady, drunk.
    She tends to feel guilty
    until she's had her first cup of coffee.
    Her neighbor is a weaver,
    he brought her a blanket last week.
    They talked for hours and ate pineapples.

    I tell her my neighbor
    is a quality wood distributor.
    He gave me some plywood.

    That night I move the bed
    beside the hearth.
    The tree is whirling with secrets,
    symbols of infinity,
    the ticking of an oil furnace.

    It is so quiet
    I can almost hear neighbors
    caroling across the street.
    I close my eyes and hum along.
    The dog sleeping at my ankles stirs
    and puts her favorite bone under my chin,
    wanting to play our timeless game
    of take-away and give-back and hide.


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