Christmas in Duarte

I submitted this last year for a young man (his homeys called him “Christmas”) I had the pleasure of knowing him for only a brief moment of his short 16-year old life. He was too young to die and it’s too soon to forget Chris’s smile.

His homeys called him Christmas

for the gifts he scored and poured

out of his bag of tricks –

for the rock candy and snowballs

he stuffed into stockings with a

twinkle in his eyes and a smile

to light up the skies of Duarte.

No more dope. He toyed with the idea

of hope, rubbing its sweetness

across his gums, over his tongue.

Whether they were naughty or nice;

black or brown, his homeys might

like the taste of something that wouldn’t

cost a lung, a tattooed arm or a leg.

He dared to believe in change

even though he didn’t trust

he’d see 18. Not much older

than Jesus who entered the Temple

to chase away the money changers –

those defilers of his hood, 16-year old

Christmas was already marked.

 I like to think he turned his back –

headed home before five shots rang out

ripping metal through flesh – shattered bone –

pierced heart. Christmas is over.

Gifts of flowers, candles and Teddy bears

line the sidewalk; the milk curdles,

and the cookies crumble to dust.

Officials Investigate Murder Of Teen Boy, 3rd Shooting In Duarte In 3 Days

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