If I could round up stockings

I’d take all the holey ones from Mama’s box of sewings,

My father’s, first, the heel ragged as a monkey’s face.

I’d hang that sock again for him

And pray Santa would put an orange

Or some nuts down in the thin

And frayed toe, then arrange

One real coconut with peeling skinned

Off to let him know

The love he held for me I hold for him.

We were not poor — just didn’t have much money.

Christmas meant longing:

That chance to fill me with sunny

Trances when I would skip the fields

And pray for days that Jesus would not appear.

I was never ready to see Him

Alive instead of in a sermon nailed to a dogwood tree.

Before sunup on Christmas day

The plankhouse hummed with joy.

In my stocking: raisins, a few English walnuts, toy

From a Cracker Jack box I’d run

A store with: I’d “sell” my brother a Mary Jane

From his sock that Mama darned in a ray of sun.

— Shelby Stephenson

Shelby Stephenson was North Carolina Poet Laureate
from 2015—2018. His most recent book is

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