When he walks into the stink
of cigarette smoke and greasy food,
nobody looks up
from their dirty mugs of beer.
Christmas lights halo the room.
He orders tequila shots,
rips off the fake beard,
slaps it on the bar like hard-earned money.
“It’s A Wonderful Life”
on TV—the scene where George
gets his world back, runs yelling
down a snowy street.
“Bullshit,” Santa hollers. The bartender
in a tight T-shirt, MARY
written in red
across his chest, raises his hand
and jerks three disapproving snaps.
Behind the bar
a picture of Jeff Stryker in the manger
surrounded by plastic donkeys
and wise men wearing thongs—
blinks off and on. All day
Santa’s been dying
to escape his cardboard house
at the mall, pull the pillow
from under his jacket
that whining kids punched
for hours. Hours
dreaming of walking away
from his hard, merciless
chair where he sat praying
over and over for the drinks
he’s downing now as he wishes
for a buck for every scum who promised
to be with him forever. His last shot
catches the light of the Nativity scene, glows
like a miniature star in his hand
as he throws his head back quickly,
pours the flickering inside.