Original poem reprinted online here:"The Death of Santa Claus" by Charles Harper Webb
Originally read: June 30, 2013
More information about the Poet: Charles Harper Webb
Tercets. I don't know why I need to start out this way. Anyway, the poem starts out in an narrative arc of exposition, narrative, second exposition, narrative.
The primary focus of the poem is how Santa Claus dies. The first two stanzas explain the symptoms as, "chest pains for weeks / but doctor's don't make house / calls to the North Pole," and how Santa Claus addressed the symptoms, "he's let his Blue Cross lapse, / blood tests make him faint / hospital gowns always flap" The continuation of excuses of why not to go. Note how very real the speaker makes the character of Santa -- in the first two stanzas there's already a sense of urgency and fear in two different angles: chest pain (urgency and fear) and reasons not to go to the hospital (urgency and fear).
"it's only indigestion anyway" is the last excuse he makes. Now we go to the scene where Santa dies, "he feels as if a monster fist / has grabbed his heart and won't / stop squeezing." Past me noted the adjective as being specific. But to what? It is an adjective which stands out, but it's in a simile form to describe the pain most people won't be able to feel.
"He can't / breath, and the beautiful white / world he loves goes black," This is the description of the "death of Santa." And yes there's the aftermath of Ms. Claus and the simile of Ruldoph's nose blinking like an ambulance; however, the shift is important here. The shift between the narrative of Santa to the narrative of the eight year old speaker happens in the first line in the third to last stanza, "and in a tract house / in Houston, Texas." I point this out because it's not like a dream sequence or the speaker was thinking about how the death happen. To this eight year old, this is more of a reasoning devise -- to fantasize how something died when, "stupid / kids at my school say Santa's a big / fake."
In the "real" sense, Santa died because of a heart attack. To the eight year old, the vision of Santa dies for him causes a heartache. But the final person (hence the tercets) affected by the news is the mother who has, "tears / in her throat, the terrible / news rising in her eyes" who observes the "death" of a couple of things. Her son growing up, and her son not believing -- she shares the pain of having "Santa" taking away from her son (she too must've experienced such knowledge), but also knows that changes -- based on the loss of belief -- will occur.