Christmas on Three Continents

In Bangladesh there are no Christmas trees
bamboo grows plentifully
so my mother bought a pole
drilled holes at intervals
carefully fit smaller pieces
added crepe paper
filled it full of lights.
Below she set the nativity scene
she brought with her
when she sailed from home
and on Christmas morning
though the heat index was a hundred
maybe more
we celebrated the Christ child's birth
sitting cross-legged
on the cool tile floor.

In Africa, we had an artificial tree
brought from the good ole USA
(my parents are fast learners)
one of those 60's silvery things
that shimmered with colors
beneath a revolving strobe
sent a colorful waterfall of stars
streaming down the walls.
On Christmas Eve
drums beat from the nearby village
steady and louder
with each passing hour
of drunken revelry.
Flying ants made a tiny ping
as they hit the glass
attracted by the rainbow dance
The nativity scene
from Bangladesh
sat carefully
on the window sash.

as the first snow falls
I decorate my Kentucky house
with garlands and lights
unwrap the nativity scene
quite fragile.
A nail's wiggled loose
on the stable roof
so I push it back in place
think how wise my mom
to know the importance of
keeping traditions.
Some things can't be replaced
I miss the equatorial heat
the beating drums
but as I place Joseph and Mary in the barn
gaze at Baby Jesus' sleeping face
they hold the holidays intact
bring home to yet
another place.


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