James Croal Jackson is a writer, filmmaker, and musician living in Columbus, Ohio.

Phone Conversation with My Sister on Christmas Da

By James Croal Jackson

The trees are dead, she said.
Peering outside, it was true: 
A still-barren sixty degrees, sun 
meekly reveling in its new warm. 
A week ago, our mother cut down the tree 
we picked apples from as children. 
They were small, red, never delicious– 
brown and burrowed with worms 

because anything sweet from the skin 
isn’t as sweet as you might think. 
All those colorful lights we tied around
the necks of plastic and decoration,

the way we choked the holiday,
wrung out the last ounces of life 
from the animal ornaments on every pine. 
The walrus with the broken tusk. 

The hyena whose laugh can nearly
be heard. As if anthropomorphizing could 
ever atone for the past but I would love 
to believe in a world where a fragment of 

a tusk means something is truly missing– 
perhaps rickety laughter ringing through 
thin walls, dominant as the wooden organ 
moans his mantra: everything in this world 

is connected. Not every connected thing 
is aware of its living, its connection. 
But the way fingers dance deep 
resonance out of the organ’s shifty teeth

to provide holiness for the changed house
is the gift we must open for ourselves
with our hands full of music– a sourness 
in harmony, an ode to shriveled apples.