poetry by James A. Perkins

The Seventh Santa

The war was over, and I was five.
My mother and I took the # 8 trolley
to the Dixie Terminal in Cincinnati.
We shopped at Pogue’s, McAlpin’s,
Shillito’s and Rollman’s.
Each store had a jolly Santa
in the toy department
asking children what they wanted,
and there were two others
ringing bells for the Salvation Army,
one in Cincinnati, and one in Covington,
at Seventh and Madison, in front of Coppins
where we got off the # 6 Rosedale trolley.
I didn’t talk to any of them.

On the second floor of Coppins
I sat in the lap of a tall sullen Santa
who smelled like my father’s brother.
Then we rode home on the # 8 Eastern Avenue.
“Drunk?” asked my father.
“Absolutely,” said my mother. “An outrage.”
He must have been the real Santa.
He remembered everything I asked for.