A Quarterly Journal of Contemporary English Language Haibun
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September 2007, vol 3 no 3

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Richard Straw


Keeping Separate

Behind my wife and three children, I walk down our cul de sac and look for the North Star. Other families join us as we drift to one house, then another. Our kids wear party hats, blow noisemakers, drink hot cider, and eat homemade cookies and candy. We have just a short wait at the last house for the Times Square countdown on TV.

Five hundred miles north, weak from chemotherapy, my dad brings down for my mom from their one-bulb attic a box filled with strips of yellowed newsprint. He begins pulling from their living room mantel a wooden manger, carved Wise Men, and other figurines that she wraps in tissue paper and nestles in the box, keeping Jesus separate from the others. A few framed family photographs are returned to their respective positions on the mantel.

cold morning
the warmth of coffee cups
in chapped hands