Poem: “Prison Yuletide”

by Taj Alexander Mahon-Haft

“Prison Yuletide”

Warden humbugged the doors up tight
Hot chocolate, hugs, and mistletoe stay out!
No cheer or candy canes breathe here.
No winter, festive, or wonderland fit between the bars.
No colors, twinkles, scents sneak beneath the fence,
even gifts exchanged violate basic rules.
Trees, angels, stars, it matters not,
season’s spirits and symbols need not apply,
But one subdued, shackled service can we see.
Yuletide trimmings, holiday tidings
must be checked at the door.
If Stalin and the Grinch procreated,
that’d be the Christmas mascot here.
Claiming “security,” they scrooge us every year.

The overflowing worst of Shopper, USA
is all that seeps between the cracks and barbs.
Black Friday ads and Charlie Brown
remind us where we’re not: at home.
But all of that, I can do without.
Pizza out of Ramen, milk with added creamer,
our prison Christmas ham and egg nog feast.
What’s really missing is my clan
sweatpants, Santa hats, nonstop laughter
our holiday uniforms and vittles.
Family is the Christmas spirit
children’s smiles light the winter night
without, an empty Christmas shadow shell.

I know that you’ll be fine out there,
but glowing with the spirit you’re not.
Your Mom’s got presents, Grandma visits,
no school or homework’s always fun.
But something’s missing still.
Even if you’re fine, I can’t admit
to you, maybe I am not.

All the bells and tinsel, carols and toys,
wreaths and mistletoe, I can do without,
but your peppermint grin and chiming giggles
memory echoes pound and drown my thoughts
leaving a seasonal void shadowing New Year.
Every kid needs a Dad for Christmas
and every Father needs his Son.

A fat lip, gangland politics, and three hours in line
just to make a 20 minute Christmas call.
Letters, poems, and jailhouse cards
I’ve even seen guys mail candy bars.
Anything to show we’re there for you
even as this day screams that we’re not.

Who will teach you snowball ethics,
how to make the perfect fort?
Who will help skip Midnight Mass (yawn!),
then explain the message over cocoa?

Who will help you build a sledding ramp,
then pile fluffy snow where you’ll land?
Who will help make Santa spying spots,
then cuddle you to sleep before your post?
Who will bound through snow til we’re blue,
then show you how to build a fire to warm you toes?

All the bells and tinsel, carols and toys,
wreaths and mistletoe, I can do without,
but your peppermint grin and chiming giggles
memory echoes pound and drown my thoughts
leaving a seasonal void shadowing New Year.
Every kid needs a Dad for Christmas
and every Father needs his Son.

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