“A Stranger in Socorro, New Mexico, December 2017”
By: Shay Wills
Christmas lights slouched along rooflines,
Nearby birthday party laughter popped beneath
Winter sun, cold and low in the southwest quarter,
And a stranger leaned on a chain link fence
Where ice fractals glittered the metal posts.
What jerked his chest with odd meters?
Shivers from the temperature?
A requiem mass trumpeted by the passage
Of families in frosted cars?
He vaulted the fence and shuffled an empty lot
Of the small town not his own.
A family man without his family—
The family shrank twice this year
So at forty-three he was
The old man to his clan—
There for others in the unknown town
Without someone there for him
His grief clung unwanted loud,
Like brown leaves on knocking gray branches.
In a depression, the winter trees gathered round,
Consolations spoken in the crunch
Of boots over this year’s tree leavings.
Un-leaved trees, un-held hands,
Un-hugged shoulders, un-hummed harmony
A man undone and solitary.
Where are those who might raise him?
One is in the ground, one is rendered to ash.
Hold hands of those behind,
Hug the shoulders of those younger,
Hum the harmony of family,
And be, stranger, what you need.
An army brat, Shay Wills lived throughout the US and Europe as a child. He graduated from the University of Arizona with a BA in English and Creative Writing. A divorced dad of two teens, when he isn’t working at a wellness resort in Tucson, he hikes, does yoga, reads, drinks too much Starbucks, and, of course, writes. He self-published his first novel, Our Lives for Others, in 2014 and has shorter pieces appearing in Bending Genres and Poets Choice.