She would lounge in the old rocking chair
with knitting in her hands and a big, sore
thumb, said she wouldn't wear a thimble, ever.
Everything Momma did was underlined with
that kind of intensity. That kind of longing
couldn't hide in thimbles, making the soreness
something she earned.
On Christmas Eve, the musk-colored carpet sparkled
from the loose pieces of garlands falling from the tree,
making the entire room sparkle like the inside of a globe
you shook really hard to make all pretty, except when all the glitter settled
there was no Jack Frost snowman or red-nosed reindeer, no scenic town;
there was only Momma, crouched on all fours, hungrily
tightening all two hundred Christmas bulbs, the blues,
the yellows, the purples, reds last, scrupulously searching
for the broken link, the painful memory that short-circuited
all the memories of good, of even us, her two little girls --
the reason why it felt so good when a tiny drop of blood trickled down her thumb,
pain easier to bear than loss --
her hands, trembling with each bolting of translucent lights,
a torture masked by voracious greed, an unpleasant smile,
and we slept on hope for twelve whole nights when we asked
Santa to make the Christmas light for Momma,
but on the thirteenth, we slept on coal.
-- Rimma Hussain
Rimma Hussain is the first-place winner in poetry in the Writer's Cafe Contest
at the University of Pittsburgh. During the school year, she lives in Oakland, and during the summer in the mountains of Johnstown. Many writers featured in Chapter & Verse are guests of Prosody, produced by Jan Beatty and Ellen Wadey. Prosody airs every Tuesday at 7 p.m. on independent radio, WYEP 91.3 FM.