The old woman next door died.
Obituary says she lived alone,
lived to ninety-two, outlived
her husband by twenty years. Doesn't say
she took care of the neighborhood strays, left
food and water on the step, freshened
them every morning. From my window
she buried those cats, two in the last
year alone, her out there
sometimes in the cold with a shovel,
chucking chunks of winter
ground behind her. So much care
for a chunk of matted mangy shit
that hissed and ran away
every time she called it over.
A friend requests my address. Woke
to a delivery van dropping packages
of meat on his doorstep, a gift
from his dad. Except he'd died in May,
must have set this up before he left,
box after box of Christmas Omaha steaks for his sons
and his friends and his sons' friends. My friend
says at the end his father thought he'd tailgated
at football games with all of us in Nebraska,
thought we all lived in the same town, thought
we were all bad-ass South Omahan, wanted to see us off.
Except I've never lived there, never met his dad,
who calls me "Jonathan," not "Jon,"
never been to Nebraska, except to drive
to somewhere else. My friend knows all this. I'm
a little drunk, he says. I talked about you guys...
he paid attention when I talked about you guys...
We string the lights and ribbons and ornaments
on the tree that evening, my wife and son
and I, with the littlest one in her playpen,
staring wide-eyed at the rainbow mobile.
My son clumps all the ornaments together
as high as he can reach, a solid line
of blue and silver four feet off the floor.
Look, he says, I'm helping,
and we nod, then rearrange the line
into a more pleasing pattern
when he wanders back to his room. Outside
the window an unseasonably warm rain beats
the driveway, the road, the shingles.
On the tree and in the window
the white lights wink out, wink in, wink out.