St Stephen's Day

Written by: DAVID ELLSWORTH

All year you were doing it

And refused to tell me why.

Each coin given in change

Was dropped into the empty coffee can

And by July, another can was needed.

December brought the Christmas tree

That you decorated with care

And when I asked what gift you wanted

You were annoyed

“We’re not buying anything,” you announced

With that special tone of finality.

Christmas night we sat together

Under blankets on the sofa

And you were happy

And I was lost in awe.

On December 26 you leapt from bed

And shook me awake.

“It’s Saint Stephen’s Day!” you proclaimed

Playfully poking your finger into my side

“Saint who?” I asked.

So all the coins were poured from the cans,

Counted and divided into packages

Of equal amounts before you pulled me

Onto the streets and into dismal alleys

“This is Charlotte,” you told me 

And gave her one of the packaged coins.

“This is Thomas,” you later said

And presented him with another of the packages.

You knew all of their names 

And I couldn’t understand how

These residents of alleys and park benches and bushes

Were known to you like old friends

I even noticed that Thomas was wearing 

That sweater I was missing from the closet

“In Italy,” you told me, holding my face

Within your hands.

“St. Stephen’s Day is a time of giving.

Isn’t it wonderful?”

And in that moment I didn’t know

If the day was wonderful

I only knew that you were.