St Stephen's Day
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.