. The Animals on Christmas Eve Some boarded dogs stayed for a while Until their owners took them home; I walked them all, in single file, But left the cows and pigs alone. My mother went the extra mile For little chicks that needed love. In March, they lived with us in style, Behind the ancient, square coal stove. As days warmed up and leaves grew big, If the old cow and little heifer Pilfered mash money from a pig, Mama would be fair, but never Gave extra credit in her log If unearned. Some barnyard crooks Might borrow cash from some small hog. But chickens, who would cook the books, Stuff themselves silly, then not lay, Got instant justice for their trouble— Lost head and feathers. In one day Were gutted, plucked, and singed of stubble. Christmas was when animals Chatted and socialized as pals. That’s what my mother told to us. There was no Christmas animus. Animals spoke out to each other; Midnight came, they talked of mother. Why not? She made us all believe We weren’t alone on Christmas Eve. . . Sally Cook is both a poet and a painter residing in upstate New York. Her poems have also appeared in Blue Unicorn, First Things, Chronicles, The Formalist Portal, Light Quarterly, National Review, Pennsylvania Review, TRINACRIA, and other electronic and print journals. A six-time nominee for a Pushcart award, in 2007 Cook was featured poet in The Raintown Review. She has received several awards from the World Order of Narrative and Formalist Poets, and her Best American Poetry Challenge-winning poem “As the Underworld Turns” was published in Pool.