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 More.