The Regift of the Magi

by Houghton Piker

A shitty time we had of it.
Just the worst time of the year.
The very dead of winter.
Two of us without jobs,
the third a part-timer,
and all we had between us
was about a dollar eighty-seven.
There were times we regretted:
The expensive beering, the special edition DVDs,
And The Incredible Hulk No. 181 in mint condition.
Then the credit card bills cursing and grumbling,
wanting their heaps of silver.
And the cable going out, and the lack of good cold cuts,
And the landlord hostile and the bosses unfriendly
And the taxis dirty, and charging high prices.
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to jump the turnstile,
transferring at Union Square, the 5 train.
With the voices of beggars singing in our ears,
saying that all was jolly, or folly?
or was it Dolly?

Then at nine we came to the high-priced valleys,
Rain-beaten streets, below bright lamps,
smelling of salt and rubber;
And no stars in the blue depth of the sky,
And long lines of brake lights galloped up and down Third.
Then we came to a building with a doorman,
who eyed us in our stiff, painted clothes, our pale unsatisfied faces.
But we had an invitation, and so we continued
And arrived not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but lamely relate
this: We were led all this way for
a party. There was a birthday to celebrate,
and we'd no cash to spare. But I'd once had a birthday,
and gotten this polyester shirt; the other had a garlic press
he would never use; the third, brought a pencil.
We gave these at the door, unwrapped, and quickly made our way
to the bar, quite at ease now, having fulfilled our dispensation,
ready to gorge on cheese and chops, even the crudité
that fell on the bestial floor.
I should be glad of another party.

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