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HOLY NIGHT (poem) - Maria Jastrzębska - United Kingdom - Poetry International
 
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Holy Night
I It goes well at first. Candles lit on the tree. The table linen sparkling white. Small branches of yew between the plates. Best silver. An envelope from Babcia and Dziadzio on each plate. Same as every year. Vodka warming everyone up, then scalding hot borscht, red like mulled wine.

II Ed was never there when you needed him. Backpacking in Nepal. Or just off out for a smoke. Kitty was clearing plates. Mama got louder. She pulled Kitty into the toilet. Help me, you’re the only one. You were always the only one that ever mattered. What about Tata, said Kitty because she was getting scared and tired.

IV Mama came out and started quarrelling with her own mother. It’s all because of you, why did you make me come to this god-forsaken country, I hate this bloody place, why did you make us come. Calm down, darling, calm down said Babcia and Dziadzio. But that made no difference.

V Calm down, darling said Tata but that made no difference either. Mama had to be taken home. Kitty and Tata bundled her into the car. It had been snowing. A perfect winter scene in the lamplight.

VI When she was little Kitty only drank Woodpecker cider. Then once she was allowed to drink stronger alcohol, she found no matter how much she drank, she stayed sober. It was always the same. She always felt tired and tight and cold inside; as if someone had packed a snowball in her stomach.

VII That’s how it is that night. As the car pulls away Mama is sick out of the window. Her sick slides down the side of the car into the sparkling snow, red, yellow, lots of different colours, all over the snow. Tata stops the car. They clear up as best as they can.

VIII After a while Mama stops shouting, then she stops saying anything. She is either asleep or passed out. They drive the rest of the way home in silence. Carefully through the snow.

 
Poet's Note: Glossary:
Babcia – gran
Dziadzio – grandad
Tata - dad
 

Editor's Note: This poem was shortlisted for the Frogmore Poetry Prize 2004