Shoulder Season

 by Mary Ann Mayer

Christmas cards are tiring my mother.
It tires her to write them, to check off names,
or cross off names
of friends who’ve moved, died, live differently
(assisted) or just given up on the holidays.
My mother looks tired,
although never younger than at this time of year.

Two different sheets of Forever stamps bought, as always:
Liberty Bell. Madonna and Child.
Normally she checks off which friend gets which stamp.
Normally I help her. But today,
I ask my mother to travel with me to the south of Spain
for Christmas in Seville.

Even though I tell her oranges grow everywhere,
espaliered on walls, and red poinsettias
grow wild at the hotel, she just smiles
and shows me again: the manger under the tree,
the Hummel figurines and crèche her mother gave her.

Most Christmas trees have a bad side
which she normally places against the wall.
This year, the missing boughs and gaping hole face out.
My mother, who will not come with me to Spain,
will glaze a ham with raisin sauce,
listen to Streisand sing carols,
and work on her list for next year.


This poem was first published in the author’s chapbook Salt & Altitudes (Finishing Line Press, 2014).

Mary Ann Mayer’s poems appear widely, most recently in They Work, We Write (Ocean State Poets, 2016), an anthology honoring textile mill workers. She has two books of poetry and has received honorable mention from Bauhan Publishing for the May Sarton New Hampshire Poetry Prize. Mary Ann divides her time between Franconia, New Hampshire, and Sharon, Massachusetts, with her husband, and with her dog, Ezra Hound. She’s a member of WREN (Womens’ Rural Entrepeneurial Network) and keeps the poetry box at Wendle’s Café in Franconia full of hand-made micro-chapbooks, compliments of the Origami Poems Project.