Christmas Eve: In Defense of the Overly Exuberant Lawn Decorations around Washington, New Jersey [poem] by BJ Ward

Along the cold streets, my townsfolk ignite
their faith. Each states that heaven’s gate’s a star
brighter than its neighbors. I’m in a car
with a coughing carburetor. Big night
for our Lord, and I’ve been anointed too:
my sisters, too drunk to drive, need tampons.
They laughed. They begged. Rudolphs have snout lamps on
throughout town. My one headlight’s pointed due
mini-mart—O salvation. At my passing,
Snoopies nod and wave. I range between Grinches
and jumbo nativity scenes, all tethered
to the frozen ground. Red and green lights flashing
signal a nigh-holy traffic. Love is cinched
to where we live. My sisters bleed together.

The store feels stocked with loneliness acquired
by fellow strangers. Amid expensive
cards, one carps: Christ, why all the extensive,
garish displays? They clutter every yard.
Near cold cuts, the busybodies cluster
to tsk the balloonish Santas. They snipe
the puffed, lit-up reindeer with buckshot gripes:
Disgraceful! What a plight…       But their bluster
cannot arrest this night’s ancient, tender gears.
My heart’s slightly naughty. Love has made it so.
The bare lawns, the darkness, are what’s unsightly.
Once home, I lift the tampons to cheers and beers.
Here’s to what we inflate and wire to make glow.
Friends, the heart is gaudy. Light it up nightly.


Image of 1930s Switchboard Operator

Image by Jo Naylor

BJ Ward is the author of four books of poetry, most recently Jackleg Opera: Collected Poems 1990-2013. His poems have appeared in Poetry, American Poetry Review, TriQuarterly, The New York Times, The Normal School, and The Sun. He is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize and two Distinguished Artist Fellowships from the NJ State Council on the Arts. His website is