Sherry had all the recipes and now she’s dead. I remember a cup of sugar, half a lemon, dark red cherries in a crust of pain crumbly falling into a hellish oven fired like she told me, 375.
In search of peace, I pray to forget the pain, remember a fragment, a recognizable fondness without stains baked in. Red stains.
Because in blood she’s gone, I’ve dreamt of her flying through the windshield, unsheathed grief a steel shard poking in the night, bladed blame stabbing me. I’ve fallen asleep too much, letting her wiggle back into my bed with screams driven around the maple red syrup on pancaked body splayed from brave speeding guts driving death too slowly for agony, her nerves still alive for howling pain mourning for morning in heaven, but she waits in dreams because she gone not far.
Awake, I still look for her charming me like all the times we drank together just fooling around. Directionless.
Steer me to insomnia and don’t tell me I shouldn’t have been driving around fallen leaves of growing blame. I can’t drive this hell away from the tree, because she was smashed in a pulp novel dream, all turned real like its leaf and chapter. Lord, I’ve dreamt of her because she’s gone. Don’t let me listen to her songs booming my soul sorry ways down.
Directionless I have gone down the road to regrets remembered, my friends who died in battle like period clumps the size of Seattle, and because of these, eating pie and beer suds, cherry filling that looks like blood, the sting cherries like sudsy guts. Restless.
I have rested in restaurants slicing beef filet like dicing shrapnel in war that beats down hearts in cherry rivers’ heat. These red rivers stain the brain though gaining ghosts have no beef with me — I was brave then to try to save them and me, but I will desert dessert.
Because I would not sell my music boom box for food, I had danced into sadness. Fresh batteries kept me alive for a journey, past the winter wheat, into the arctic without food where I danced for the Angel of Death.
She said, “Have you come to dance for me on an ice flow like an Eskimo, old and waiting for death?”
“Yes,” I said. “Freeze me away from red rivers, and…”
A voice said, “That’s not the line!”
A different booming voice: “Cut, cut, cut. Don’t improvise… stick to script. Memorize your lines, damn it! Wait… who the hell are you? You’re not the star actor… how did you wander onto the set? Damn…”
A voice said, “Why don’t we keep the scene… Charlie’s drunk in the trailer again.”
The Director said, “Hey you, do you belong to the Screen Actors’ Guild?”
“The what?” I said. “The screen actor’s guilt?”
“Never mind,” he said. “Bring in the clowns.”
The clowns danced across an ice flow past a polar bear and stage hands with rifles and paddles. The cameras rolled on their tracks.
The Angel of Death, sized by her anti-muses, danced her mocking prelude to my own booming grief. “Death is amused by lean harvests of thought and lost jobs, lost hope, and cherry pie…”
A voice said, “That’s not the line!”
“Oh geez,” the director said, “Angel of Death, who the hell are you?”
“I’m Sherry,” she said. “I’m a stand in.”
The clowns passed her a cherry pie and she threw it in my face. She said, “I forgive you.”
— Douglas Gilbert
When Mrs. Claus Mourns
Mrs. Claus mourned the child she gave up. She had always wanted to marry a prince and have lots of children, but she married instead a fat guy whose children were in faraway places. As a young girl, she was seduced by his charming-magical rhymes under a full moon. Even after the magic for her was gone, her jolly scoundrel, Santa Claus to the world, always wrote her a poem before he left as compensation, but she’s come to hate sonnets after this last one:
The romp of love beguiles, a playful horse
my heart a rider gripping spirit’s trip
a bit of banter falls from saddled lips.
A candor canters, musical in source
a clip-clop hoofing it, my fruit is tossed.
Her lust is cantaloupes so sweetly quipped
yet love’s a cherry deeply red of lip
outspoken rips in bound’ries’ gorgeous loss.
I know you love me mole and mountain bluff.
I show my cards, won’t raise to bluff a love.
…and more nonsense after.
It was a bluff again that a sonnet would satisfy a craving. She hated it because rarely did she see his cherry lips or cheeks. She could play with farce no more, for the fantasy wishes in unlabeled boxes would not suffice for Mrs. Claus who wrote free verse while Santa was busy in the world.
Santa answered delightful letters from giddy children, but she received letters of rejection from the poetry editor, he, a trochee donkey iambic like an ass. Santa could do no wrong; she could do no right.
Mrs. Claus hated when the big one went away on Christmas, when the snow looked like semen dried up and flaky, his departing stomach like a pregnant indulgence she could only wish for.
Finally, one Christmas, when no more could she count the melting snow flakes on her tongue, count the elves, the reindeer, the orphan toys, it was then that her emptiness overtook her sanity, and she took an empty sleigh drive into the city of sin, her naked body wrapped only in a fur coat with a pocket for the Santa cell phone.
She left the sleigh, tied the reindeer to a lamp pole, strolled the streets showing a leg, and sang “Ho, ha, ha”. She waited in the street, but in the midst of it all she saw a lost little girl wandering in the snow.
She hoo, ha, ha’ed the girl ‘till the crying subsided, asked her name and found a Lisa. “Where’s your Daddy?” The girl didn’t know but said he went for a quickie walk.
Mrs. Claus would look to find him as the snow thickened. Showing a leg, she waited. A man appeared from nowhere, laid his hand on her thigh like a roadway, following the ignoble path until he noticed her glistening tears. Looking into her eyes, he remembered the mother of his girl.
Just then, the Santa cell phone rang. The Elf Secret Service said that there’s been a sleigh crash, and Santa is dead. The world was wrapped in gloom.
Joy fell from artificial boons and wrappers filled the ocean. With a poof, unreal gifts vanished in a twinkle, elves all banished to a realm of puff.
Starlight appeared on Lisa’s tears, a word on innocent lips: “Can we all be married, Daddy?” With a ho, ho, ha and a ho, ho, ho, they vowed to do better with love, to listen to snow gust up and swirl, to see a gift like a crystal had already been born.
— Douglas Gilbert