Christmas 1973 – Allegory Inc.

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Christmas 1973

By Christina Harbridge
hand raised

Robert Harbridge on the far right

During the holidays I often think about my dad, who formed so much of my thinking as a human. He was a civil rights worker who believed in infiltration and joining the organizations he wanted to change. His methods of reducing “us and them” seemed to work well in Atlanta, Georgia.

Every year he wrote a poem for Christmas. This poem is particularly apt this year for me. At his essence, my dad taught me to love humans. A few folks have told me the poem isn’t politically incorrect, but I hope as you read it you feel how thoughtful he was for that time period, 1973.

Christmas 1973
– written by Robert Harbridge in 1973

Christmas this year
Should cost at least
A thousand dollars.

It should be in the Ideal Bar & Grill
On 163rd and St. Nicholas
Waiting for the first
Tattered little boy
To come in selling
Tomorrow’s morning papers
Roughing up his hair,
Giving all his papers away
And giving him
A hundred dollar bill

It should be
Walking through the Bowery,
Finding the drunk
Shivering in the dark doorway
And giving him,
Instead of a religious tract
Or lecture,
A hundred dollar bill.

It should be walking,
Down Beale Street,
Stopping the first
Poor black child,
Giving him a smile
And a hundred dollar bill.

It should be
In Albuquerque.
Not a donation to a fund,
But taking the time to find
The sad-eyed Chicano child,
Taking him to a toy store
And letting him run riot.
Picking up the tab, the toys and him and
To take them to
Wherever or to whatever
His home may be,
And leaving him the change
Of a hundred dollar bill.

It should be in San Diego
Out on the wharf,
With the old fisherman
Who mends nets
Because the tuna
Don’t run for him anymore.
A Vaya con Dios
And a hundred dollar bill.

It should be in a Santa Monica Bar,
Smiling at the tired barmaid
Who came to the coast
To be a star
And only found reality,
Giving her conversation, respect,
And a hundred dollar bill.

It should be in a Nob Hill restaurant.
Giving the maitre d’
A smile. And the busboy,
Who no one has noticed
All year,
A hundred dollar bill.

It should be
With a little old lady
In San Francisco’s Mission Street
Selling flowers, late at night
In the Tenderloin
Taking all her
Wilted posies,
Giving her a kiss
And a hundred dollar bill.

It should be
In Seattle’s skid row
Down near the Totem Pole
In Pioneer Square,
Giving the startled
Indian panhandler
A measure of returned pride
And a handshake
And a hundred dollar bill.

It should be the last saved
For the thief
Who needs it worse
Than anyone,
Not just the money
But the need to
Be superior to someone.
Let him steal from me
A hundred dollar bill.

But most of
To have any value at all,
Let Christmas Day find me
With empty pockets
Hanging inside out,

Happy holidays!

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