KRAMPUS
Letter to Santa
by Amanda Williams

 “The Krampus shambles through the streets, frightening children and           threatening folk with bundles of birch branches or whips made of           horse tails…he often slaps the bellies of young girls with his birch           club, a tradition which undoubtedly originated with pagan fertility           rights.” German Life Magazine, December 2014

Santa, where is your ugly other,
where is the one who rattled birches
against our windowpane in the shadows
of the frozen pines? I’d put my shoe
on the doorstep each December 5th,
letting out just a wisp of oven-warmed air
as I reached a small arm over the threshold
into the night to place the vessel
of judgment. By morning I’d know
what kind of child I’d been.

Santa, you have the benevolence
of God, the joviality of drunken uncles,
the plumpness of holiday roasts, and you
have never thrown a bad kid
into your red velvet sack. In fact,
when we moved to America I grew
to hate your leniency, I craved
the verdict of that goat-demon
as he prowled our second-grade classroom,
presenting poisonous gems of coal
to those who deserved no better—
and people wonder why I am so “hung up”
on right and wrong, accountability,
that old vigilante justice.

Santa, you’ve made me soft and fat
with the buttermilk of forgiveness,
with 10th place trophies, with a stocking-stuffer
for each time I cursed in front of Oma.
Fear gives gorgeous results, a child
who grasps consequence. How could we be
anything but good when we were told
that Krampus would come, switch
our bellies with his bundled sticks,
beat us with his club, tip us head-first
into his wicker tote and cart us off to hell?

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem captures a feeling of “otherness” that I often feel during the Christmas season, since I was raised in Germany where the holiday traditions are a bit more—colorful. As a child, we were tempted into good behavior around Christmastime not by the promise of presents, but by the fear that our naughtiness may make us vulnerable to one of the more demonic Bavarian Christmas characters, the Krampus.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Amanda Williams is an MFA Creative Writing candidate at Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia. She is the recipient of a Jackson Fellowship, the Gertrude Claytor Prize in Poetry from the Academy of American Poets, and will serve as a Hollins Teaching Fellow for the 2015-2016 academic year, instructing undergraduate students in creative writing. Amanda received BA degrees in English Literature and Theatre Arts from Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington, Illinois, and spent a year abroad at the University of Oxford. Her poems have been published in Artemis: A Journal for Artists and Writers from the Blue Ridge Region and Beyond and Jam Tarts Magazine, and are forthcoming in the Sugar House Review. Her essays have appeared in Army Aviation Magazine and The Morning News. When not writing, she enjoys long walks with her French Bulldog puppy, Gaston.