December. Again the family gathers
around the plastic pine, branches that bend
like pipe cleaners. Sister whitens the tree
with canned snow. Grandma’s glass eye
looks more real than her real one.
Father assembles the tree which slept
eleven months in a cardboard box
labeled TREE. Brother tells everyone
the eggnog tastes like arsenic
and fakes his own death. We laugh
our phony laugh and nobody informs him
arsenic is tasteless. Mother wears
a clip-on smile thanks to the tablet
that dissolved beneath her tongue.
Grandpa does that trick with his thumb.
You know, the thumbless hand one.
Doorbell rings. It’s Jesus. Drops of blood
fall from his body like a torn bag of rubies.
Together we take him apart and seal him
inside a box labeled MR. KILL JOY.
All night I hear him pounding the cardboard
like distant thunder. Next morning
I ride my new bicycle, crash it full-speed
into an actual tree. Let me tell you
what it’s like to be unconscious.
Picture the green field of the world,
a stone well on the perimeter.
Picture a cardboard box at the bottom
of the well. Guess who’s inside it.
David Hernandez’s third poetry collection, Hoodwinked, won the Kathryn A. Morton Prize. His other collections are Always Danger (Southern Illinois University Press, 2006), winner of the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry, and A House Waiting for Music (Tupelo Press, 2003). His YA novels include No More Us for You and Suckerpunch, both published by HarperCollins. His poems have appeared in FIELD, The Threepenny Review, Ploughshares, AGNI, TriQuarterly, and The Missouri Review. David lives in Long Beach, California, and is married to writer Lisa Glatt. Visit his website at davidahernandez.com. (updated 4/2013)