A gift for Pauly (a Christmas poem)

(In memory of Frank J. Quackenbush: 1949 – 1995)


It was the night before Christmas

And I was all by myself

Which is the way I like it

Nobody to give me hell


Just old movies on TV

And my feet on a stool

No carols, no reindeer

No silly red-suited fools


I don’t own a fire place

I have no chimney to fear

So more was my surprise

When a knock hit my ear


A silly voice was singing

Out from the cold of night

And I glanced into the darkness

With a terrible fight


Who was that a calling?

So familiar was his voice

So I rushed to the door

Because I had no choice


Was it Hank that I hear

His words struck, me hard

A man so full of Christmas

He took it to heart


“What do you want of me?”

I yelled out the door

But I heard only the wind now

Or was it a snore?


His visits had plagued me

When we were still but young men

Insisting on gift-giving

When I wanted it to end


Hank called it a tradition

I called it a pain

and just like Saint Nicholas

he was at it again.


We were always so lonely

This time of year

No sweethearts to romance

Or give holiday cheer


So we kept our own company

And often got drunk

A pack of staggering stooges

Filled with holiday funk.


But as I got older

The less comfort I took

From that stew of mutual misery

Hank insisted we cook


Yet try as I might

To shed this yearly bliss

The more Hank pressed me

And continued to insist


Forcing some package

Into my quivering hand

And waiting for me

To keep heart with his plans


But how could this be,

I thought with much dread

All these long years

Since Hank was found dead?


Did I hear the word “Scrooge”

As the wind blew again

As I shivered at the chill

And thought of my dead friend


“Leave me alone!”

I cried at the wind

And heard the laugh

That I knew was my friend’s


And there at my feet

I saw his glittering gift

And I snatched it up quickly

In my holiday fit


And unwrapping its wrapping

I found to my dread

John Denver’s grinning face

A face I had fled


I hated this music

As Hank so well knew

And to get it on this night

Was too much to chew


This recalled all the old night

When Hank had gifted me so

And I knew it back at him

As hard as I could throw


“Why are you doing this?”

I shouted again

“Why do you haunt me

when we used to be friends?”


But I go no more answer

Save for the howl of the wind

And I tossed out the album

And shut myself in


But no sooner were the locks shut

On the back of the door

Back came the knocking

I had heard before


I ran to the door

To find at my feet

John Denver staring up

With his grin unbearably sweet.


“Why are you hounding me?

why can’t you leave me in peace?”

I cried with such passion

I let out a sneeze


But I knew in my heart

What this was about

Hank loved Christmas so much

He could not live without.


So I rushed out the front door

As Hank stirred at the back

Started my car and fled

Down the snow covered track


And eventually I lost him

In the snow of that night

But this being Christmas

I knew he was right.




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