Poem (The lump of coal my parents teased) by William Matthews
The lump of coal my parents teased
I'd find in my Christmas stocking
turned out each year to be an orange,
for I was their sunshine.
Now I have one C. gave me,
a dense node of sleeping fire.
I keep it where I read and write.
"You're on chummy terms with dread,"
it reminds me. "You kiss ambivalence
on both cheeks. But if you close your
heart to me ever I'll wreathe you in flames
and convert you to energy."
I don't know what C. meant me to mind
by her gift, but the sun returns
unbidden. Books get read and written.
My mother comes to visit. My father's
dead. Love needs to be set alight
again and again, and in thanks
for tending it, will do its very
best not to consume us.