Best Christmas Ever (in response to a writing prompt)

Best Christmas Ever 

                        Like asking which of your children you love the most
There was the first Christmas
when I was the prince
unknowing head of the grand-kids brigade
There was Christmas in Maine
warm house         a turkey
a small model train
There was grandparents Christmas
loving old man         silvery woman
polished wood floors        light in the windows
There was growing boys Christmas
with pairs of real skis
endless days in the snow for my brother and I
There were years of dark Christmas
not too many I guess
sitting in quiet and counting the losses
There were Christmases      children
my wife’s loving tree
home-made decorations placed to cement
our hearts to our family
to ancient ancestors 
to dim winter evenings
to bonding of campfires
after a low-passing
sun has gone down
now Christmas is lights
strung up on the houses
ornaments carefully tended and hung
and after all of the parties have passed
along with the crowded living room mornings
Christmas comes as it will            year after year

and rests on our shoulders     a dusting of snow
© Frank Kearns 2016 

Common Things

On our first morning in the house
our new home not yet cold
from its last abandonment
we tiptoed on our thin young legs
down to the cool cellar
heavy with the scent of stone and earth
we found a workbench with a few hand saws
tinged with rust in this electric age
and on the floor a 12 pound sledge
useless      with a splintered handle
that could have easily been replaced
if anyone had cared
half way down the basement was
a heavy timbered room
about ten feet on either side
whose door barely responded
to the pull of a ten
and an eight year old
but when it did and when we groped
to find the switch
a single hanging bulb lit up
to reveal a large square chest
a room within a room
a poultry incubator six feet tall
varnished oak with frame and panel doors
drawer after drawer of wire mesh
brass hinges and latches with long thick handles
handles that pulled easily
handles cast without a care
for a bit of extra metal
handles as long as a young boy’s arm
with graceful curves to welcome the hand
and a thickening at the end
to signify nothing but the maker’s sense
of how such a simple metal piece
should look to the eye and feel to the touch
good for nothing now except
to fasten closed a wooden door
if there was something left to seal inside
good for nothing but to teach
a little boy the feel of common things
and help him understand what beauty is
© 2015 Frank Kearns

Ready to Go

The weathered barn
dusty bay in the far left corner
the nineteen twenty nine Essex
upright steel box of a body
yellow cracked wood-spoked wheels
the grease caked hard on the spindles
the upright bench seats
dusty seat covers somewhat worn
but still intact
the open glove box door
world war two gas coupons
casually thrown inside

plenty of gas

for next week’s trip to Boston

© 2014 Frank Kearns

Image Attribution

By Lars-Göran Lindgren Sweden (Own work) [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

Modesta Avila


Modesta Avila
     First felon of Orange County – 1889

Thin columns of rising smoke
trace the mesh of railroad racks
out across the scrub and farms
of the ranchos of Southern California.

Stubby black engines pulling
cattle hides and oranges
spurt rhythmic blasts of exhausted steam
and startle the jackrabbits

in a mundane daily working way,
as if the sleepy donkey carts
of the land-rich Californios
had last rolled centuries ago.

Modesta’s teenage eyes flare out,
steady in the booking photo;
her crime       she dared to string her laundry
across the Southern Pacific tracks,

an eighteen year old       Mexican,
upturned by the shifting tide,
tired of the incessant grunt
of indifferent locomotives

sealing her childhood beneath the rails,
unable to see a world beyond,
a woman knowing no way to stop
the hard steel wheels of the passing trains,

willing to lose the sunsets
glowing orange in the ocean air,
or trade the sight of butterflies
drifting from fresh spring grass,

or       rage welling in her neck,
nothing more than wanting,
wanting just one chance to say
this land        it was my father’s.

Frank Kearns 2014

The Walk Light at Rives Avenue

The Walk Light at Rives Avenue
 seems to take forever to come on.
Cars come down Florence quick and constant,
flowing as an un-swimmable mass
of blurry colors and blinding chrome.
A man on a rusty bicycle stops
and sets his feet on the concrete walk;
plastic bags full of empty cans
sway back and forth on the handle bars.
On the far side a woman in running shoes
leans against the stop light pole,
presses the metal button once,
and pushes back in a long slow stretch.
We have come to a stop at anywhere,
like townspeople frozen on a page
of a yellowed hardbound picture book,
on a city street between world wars,
waiting for the drawbridge to set down,
sharing in casual nod and glance,
this momentary intersection
of unconnected lives,
or travelers bound together,
by a pause on an ancient river bank,
the ferry still at the opposite shore,
the river moving fast in deep mid stream.