By Nancy Denault-Weiss
Mom spoke quietly about the loup garou,
when the dead took the forms of wolves.
The radio turned on and the kitchen clock stopped
at the very moment of her grandpa's death (she said).
Aunt Ruth sent greetings by dimming the lights.
Dad's Québécois parents, and theirs before them,
believed the cows knelt at midnight for Jesus' birth.
(I never confirmed the reverence of cows.
I'd almost forgotten about that.)
Our rough brown days were tenderized pink
by Mom's shy Christmas endeavors,
her five green glass ornaments.
That cardboard village with cellophane windows –
little lives of mystery in a sugarplum world.
One Christmas Eve the locked attic door flew open.
After midnight mass, was it '73? --
the huge orange moon and 19 below, we saw
crystals in the air (just mist from our frozen breath).
We take sepia stories, breathe them in and out,
sieving them through our cynic grids.
They must have needed their tales to tell –
just imagine those long white winters,
iced breath thick on the squared wood windows.
Snowed in for weeks. I think they believed.
Even if they didn't, they told us anyway.
They could have kept silent.
I don't recall their faces so much as the words.
There's still some homely magic
in speaking to the memories, the legends
of wolves and cows, clocks and crystals.
In telling and retelling, the old words are lifted
by the vaporescence of breath, our children's—
someday theirs as well --aloft, radiant in any light
with the orange moon closing in to listen, too:
a kindly, curious eye in the cold and dark
at our miniature, candy-lit windows.
Contributor’s Note: NANCY DENAULT-WEISS lives in Clarence and works as a counselor and psychotherapist.