Christmas 1973

My dad wrote this poem in 1973. The holiday doesn’t apply to much of the world: the sentiment does.

Christmas 1973

Christmas this year

Should cost at least

A thousand dollars.

It should be

In the Ideal Bar & Grill

On 163rd and St. Nicholas

Waiting for the first

Tattered little boy

To come in selling

Tomorrow’s morning papers

Roughing up his hair,

Giving all his papers away

And giving him

A hundred dollar bill

It should be

Walking through the Bowery,

Finding the drunk

Shivering in the dark doorway

And giving him,

Instead of a religious tract

Or lecture,

A hundred dollar bill.

It should be walking,

Down

Beale Street

,

Stopping the first

Poor black child,

Giving him a smile

And a hundred dollar bill.

It should be

In Albuquerque.

Not a donation to a fund,

But taking the time to find

The sad-eyed Chicano child,

Taking him to a toy store

And letting him run riot.

Picking up the tab, the toys

And him.

To take them to

Wherever or to whatever

His home may be,

And leaving him the change

Of a hundred dollar bill.

It should be in San Diego

Out on the wharf,

With the old fisherman

Who mends nets

Because the tuna

Don’t run for him Anymore.

A “Vaya con Dios”

And a hundred dollar bill.

It should be

In a Santa Monica Bar,

Smiling at the tired barmaid

Who came to the coast

To be a star

And only found reality,

Giving her conversation, Respect,

And a hundred dollar bill.

It should be in

A Nob Hill restaurant.

Giving the maitre d’

A smile. And the busboy,

Who no one has noticed

All year,

A hundred dollar bill.

It should be

With a little old lady

In San Francisco’s

Mission Street

 

Selling flowers, Late at night

In the Tenderloin

Taking all her

Wilted posies,

Giving her a kiss

And a hundred dollar bill.

It should be

In Seattle’s skid row

Down near the Totem Pole

In

Pioneer Square

,

Giving the startled
Indian panhandler

A measure of returned pride

And a handshake

And a hundred dollar bill.

It should be the last saved

For the thief

Anywhere,

Who needs it worse

Than anyone,

Not just the money

But the need to

Be superior to someone.

Let him steal from me

A hundred dollar bill.

But most of all…

To have any value at all,

Let Christmas Day find me

Broke,

With empty pockets

Hanging inside out,

Still

In

Love

With

Man.

By Robert H. Harbridge

1973

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