Christmas in Columbus, Georgia

by Nick Norwood

A dead ringer for Santa Claus,
he’s an aging grease monkey
in a holly-green monkey suit
in the next booth at Burt’s
Butcher Shop and Eatery.
Shaggy locks lilting up beneath
a greasy cap, white beard, forking
down his payday sirloin strip
with his plumpety-plump wife.
Friday night, place is packed, a little
awful but cheerful, with its broad-
hipped waitresses, harvest gold
table tops, and working-class folk
digging deep into hearty grub
in wax-papered baskets. The black
couple in the corner’s got a kid
six or eight who can’t sit still
though Mama says he better
till it’s time to pay and she
lets him sidle up to St. Nick.
Early December, raw wind
scraping trash across the park-
ing lot, he wants to get his
order in. Santa leans back, smiles,
says he’s been watching him, sees
he’s being, well, purty good.
So all right, what‘ll it be? Action
figures, a football, lots and lots
and lots of candy. And games.
They part on good terms, the old
man chuckles, downs his sweet tea
while his wife explains to the next
table how it’s the same every year.
Another minute more and they’re
out the door, climbing in a ten-
year-old Tundra, off to their
white frame in Bibb City, matching
La-Z-Boys, TV. The waitress
refills our cups, my friend springs
for the meal, and I’m off myself
to my workshop in the old mill
to cook up something about
peace, love, and goodwill.

NICK NORWOOD’s third full volume of poems, Gravel and Hawk, won the Hollis Summers Prize in Poetry and was published by Ohio University Press in 2012. His poems have appeared widely, including in The Paris Review, Western Humanities Review, Shenandoah, The Wallace Stevens Journal, Poetry Daily, on the PBS News Hour site Art Beat, and on NPR’s Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor. He is currently a professor of creative writing and the director of the Carson McCullers Center for Writers and Musicians at Columbus State University.