November 2016 Winner

The Christmas Party
By Cheryl A. Van Beek

Through steamy windows sweating in shared anticipation,
red and green bleed into a melting glacier of slippery roads.
Traffic streams, her leather pump burdens the accelerator.
Would she ever get there?
As she drives, she sees herself
already at the party,
hears the carol of voices, liquid foaming,
feels the warmth of crackling hearth flames.
Candle light flickers with spruce and cinnamon.
Clichéd silhouettes kiss beneath mistletoe.
Above all, he was there.
He smiles and leans in.
Pheromones twine with cedar.

Lost in reverie, she misses the yellow light.
Its amber glow floods her eyes as she careens over the edge.
Holly lies unconscious in her merlot-colored velvet dress.
Her maple hair ripples on the ground.

Her subconscious rallies.
Sifting images, it recasts the scene.
A crowd gathers, voices clink like ice in glasses.
Rushing through the slushy brook,
water fizzes like champagne bubbling into flutes.
Amidst strobe lights, firefighters
smother her car’s flames.
Above, sugary snow-wisps whirl
off waxy leaves of mistletoe-entwined evergreen.
Brine and balsam mingle as the paramedic leans in.