4. Santa Claus: Santa Cruz
In December, 1985, recently returned to the U.S.
after some years in Canada, a free lance writer
in search of a story, I sought and found
employment as a Rent-a-Santa Claus. Imagine walking
into the local Community Center and suddenly, at the
sight of 400 children, feeling transformed from
one's skinny, sad-eyed self, into an elf--having to
chant the prescribed syllables, "Ho, Ho, Ho."
What is poetry? For me, it's the restrained music
of a switchblade knife. It's an amphibious warship
magically transformed into a basketball court, and
then transformed again into a movie theater showing
a film about the life of Joan of Arc. It is the
vision of an amnesiac, bleeding from a head injury,
witnessing the play of sunlight on a redbrick wall.
Poetry comes to a bearded Jewish wanderer, pulling
on a pair of high rubber boots with white fur, and a
set of musical sleigh bells, over blue, fleece-lined
sweat pants. It comes to the father of five
children bearing gifts for 400 and, choked up,
unable to speak, alternately laughing and sobbing
the three traditional syllables--Ho, Ho, Ho--hearing
at the same time, in his heart, the more plaintive,
tragic--Oi vay, Oi vay, Oi vay.
for more, please see Four Incarnations, Coffee House Press. The material also appears in *New & Selected Poems, 1957-2011, Red Hen Press.
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