On Christmas Eve, Please Bring Me My Wine, And Please Bring Me the Stars in the Sky

by Serge Bielanko

Wait a while eternity
Old Mother Nature's got nothin' on me
Come to me, run to me, come to me now
I'm rollin' my sweetheart
I'm flowin' by God

-John Prine, 'Christmas in Prison'


When I was a boy, 7/8/9, I'd sit in the slippery wood pew on Christmas Eve holding my candle like everyone else. My mom to my left, my little brother to my right, the choir singing their hearts out, Joy to the World, Silent Night, I'd feel my soul shifting around down in my bone cage. God was too much of an idea for me to wrap my head around back then. But still, in that church in Conshy behind the gas station where my Pop-Pop gassed up his Matador and where my brother would one day change tires and work the pumps, I'd feel a thing moving me. 

I still don't know what it was. 

Neither do you, trust me.


You hold a candle and hear those songs, the warbly collision of people in your world- kids who ride your bus/moms who bake Betty Crocker cupcakes you eat at roller rink birthday parties/old ladies who only exist clunking down the stairwells of the church rectory, clutching their 8am service programs tight to their chest, my fresh eyes zooming in on a wad of blue vein lotion knuckle pinkness/Little League coaches wearing their Sears suit/one or two people from far off lands (me watching them sing, wondering if they were happy or sad to be a long long way from home, me not knowing that they were home)/housewives who spent their lives in a different galaxy two blocks from where I spent mine/old men with upside down forests of nose hair pouring out of their heads like dragon fire, glistening scalps housing the thoughts that once trudged across damp French fields behind tanks/kids from down my street/kids from my gym class/kids I had never said a word to and never would in this lifetime/everyone from everywhere/oh holy night/never my dad, home by himself, wine, beer, Gruyere from the special cooler at the Acme that no one ever hit 'til Christmas/my Mom-Mom, standing, singing, smiling at me, sticking her tongue out at me and making her crazy eyes face at me over the flame of her candle/the collection plates all gold and red velvet/plumbers kneeling/housewives looking at the high arched wood of the church ceiling like it was the floor of Heaven above us all/the Pastor talking wise men and Mary and manger and birth and love and Christ and spirit and this and that and me getting itchy/this battle between the known and the unknown raging inside of my body/blowing me up gas fire/- you hold a candle and hear those songs, the warbly collision of people in your world, and for a fleeting moment/single spark dancing down the solar winds/tiny spark skipping cross the eternal dark prairie/you know damn right well that you are feeling a thing in your chest/a Constellation Fist wrapping round your bloody meat heart/squeezing/lifting you up by your aorta/hurling you across all space and time/through shimmering walls of dinosaurs and Plague and heresy and war and screams spilling down some hillside and out over the Roman Walls and Japanese children melting in the street and volcanos erupting and sunsets like you would not believe slipping down behind herds of buffalo that went on for miles, great warriors weeping on high rocks, and temples going up in the deep jungle and round-the-clock trains to Buchenwald and fingers drawing fire and love on cave walls and a trillion first kisses and more coming and wolves unseen running so hard and fast after deer unseen in a wild unseen and quiet snow falling on so many nights never to be lived again/it all comes heaving up out of your small soul or whatever you wanna call it and it shoots out of your face like happy puke, like when you were born, your mama so sweaty and crying and overjoyed with the pain that you brung to the moment that changed everything forfuckingever,  you hold a candle and hear those songs, the warbly collision of people in your world, and you, and when I say you I really mean me, because at the end of the day/let's face it/what's the difference.


There I am.

My skull crashing into the church rafters. 

The candle dripping wax down on the paper catcher.

Christmas Eve.

Santa somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean. Santa and his reindeer. A twinkling twitch somewhere high above heaving clouds of cod. Thrusting cold dark. IceRain slamming into his face, all caught up in his whipping beard. 


Coming for us. For my brother Dave. For my Mom. For my Dad asleep in the chair by the tree when got home. 

Coming for you. 

Coming/I must admit/terrified as I am/for me.


I don't know what I believe in.

It's okay to admit that. I love a thing I cannot see. I always have. I can't see shit. Fascination Street. Vascillation Street. I sneak around God in my mouse paw shoes, circling the cheese. I want to believe that I will not die if I eat this. And I want to believe that I will not die if I don't.

That too much to ask?


I guess maybe it might be, huh?

But you know what?  

I know one thing for certain. I know I believe in the memory of my life, in the complicated Sunday Gravy street drift garlicky ghost essence of it all. Of it meaning more than I give myself credit for. You have to survive, dude. Your life depends on it. My heart demands it.

And long long ago, out front a church in Conshy, on a cold clear Christmas Eve, I stood on the sidewalk with all the other people wishing each other peace and happiness and meaning it.

And I ignored them all.

I looked over at Dave and he looked over at me and we were two kids in a movie as we both looked up at the stars at once, up into in the Fifth Layer of Deep Back Space that you can only manage to glimpse if you believe in a thing for real for real, and I shit you not: something was red-light-blipping across the dark sky. Everything fell away from our world.

All truth will be revealed. 

"We gotta get home," I hissed. "We gotta get in bed. Holy crap. HOLY SHIT!!! That's him!"

Dave looked at me; I could feel his eyes; brothers have that; our hearts exploding in our chests. What luck we were having. What terror. What a life we would live the rest of our days from that moment on.

"That's them." 

People next to us talking so much happy holiday horseshit.

"Oh my God,...that's Him."


Everything keeps making me feel like I will never ever die.

I wonder if that's true.

Who are you to say? Think about it. It could happen.

I just keep on keepin' on.

I just keep on eating pizza and staring at birds and watching Netflix by myself on the couch and laughing in the mirror and kissing beery lips out back the bars and mircowaving my oatmeal a minute ten in the morning and decorating all crazy for Halloween, for Christmas, and stopping on the bridge on summer evenings to see if a trout rises right at that exact second, and cleaning the cobwebs off the grill at the start of every May-like clockwork. Me, y'all, rolling my fingers through my kid's hair for the next 55 gillion years until the stars pop off, until the red blip stops.


I know, I know.


I'm here now though, right? Right. Christmas Eve. Tonight. Again. One more time. Heart racing. I'm so confused. I'm so predictable. I'll be looking at the sky wondering if you are too. 

Everything keeps messing with my mind. 

It's kind of fucking lovely. 

Merry Christmas.