By Judy Johnson
No need to decorate, just two of us
and the dog, who doesn’t mind.
Our daughter’s a nurse, so grandkids can’t come—
and all those signs heroes work here
don’t translate into a raise.
I’ve put holiday baking on hold
we’re both at risk for diabetes,
and gaining weight anyway
sitting around, as old people do,
watching tv, though I can’t stand
one more Hallmark Christmas special,
the perfect worlds, the happy endings.
No meals with friends,
no office parties, everybody working from home,
no choir rehearsals or Messiah concerts,
no secret Santa gifts,
no carry in lunches,
no poinsettia fundraising sales,
no midnight mass, no carolers
hoping for some hot chocolate
with a peppermint stick.
Nothing to focus on but the lit candles,
a silence deeper than Bethlehem’s,
and a baby in a manger.
No, You May Not
Your visit to your mother—who is, thank God,
still well in her assisted living apartment—will be
conducted on FaceTime, though you have sent
flowers and a big box of Esther Price chocolates.
You will not host a Cinco de Maya party
at which you drink too many killer margaritas
and eat too many plates of chips and salsa
to wake up regretful, heavy-eyed the next day.
Your daughter, who has not gone to prom,
afterprom, or anything else, will also not
walk across the stage to shake the principal’s hand
nor host nor attend a graduation open house.
Your son will not get a lifeguard job at the Y
but at least still has his paper route
and his father to drive him around
to deliver the news and spend time together.
Your neighbors will not throw their porch party
to watch the annual Memorial Day parade
now rescheduled for July 4, fingers crossed
as it goes by, the kids in the band tootling away.
Your baby sister’s wedding, planned months ago,
her five dearest college friends her attendants,
hundreds invited, a sit down dinner for fifty
string quintet playing in the background is on hold.
You will not open the cottage in Ontario
at the end of the month as usual,
nor are you hopeful about the off-season cruise
you booked last November.
No. No is the operative syllable again this month,
as it hasn’t been since your teenagers were toddlers.
You hope we outgrow it and that in June
we again can hear, at last, Yes.
Judy Johnson is a writer, editor, and reference librarian from Ohio. She has recorded her poems, which have won local and national awards, for a local radio program.
My poetry partner, MJ, and I have been meeting weekly on Zoom during the pandemic to share a new poem for critique or to rework an older poem. I hadn’t been able to write much other than poems, which faithfully came each week. MJ also pushes us to send out our work, which I hadn’t done for some time.