The Elf by Kelli Lage

My grandmother’s attic holds more yellow light and tinier hallways than it did in my youth. After dreaming of what is left of her, my feet froze when it was time to discover dusty crumbs. My dad dragged me up the staircase by the thread of my jacket. Hunched over life stored in boxes. He fishes out the mailbox.

From the moment Christmas was frosting over in the back of my mouth, the folktale of The Elf warmed my bones for Saint Nick’s coming. As my grandmother told it, each child was assigned an elf for the month of December. This elf would deliver ephemera, trinkets, and previews of magic. My elf left tokens of childhood in a miniature silver mailbox. A raised red flag meant a piece of earth’s mysticism was waiting for me.

One December day, there was no sign of The Elf; flag limp, mailbox bare. I asked my grandmother if a Yuletide elected to deck halls without me. She sent me on a wild goose chase around her house for hidden passages of sun and the like. When I returned to her entryway, I swore on my snow globe collection, I spotted a shadow of The Elf dashing out of her door. I tilted my head towards the mailbox; the flag stood upright, inside tin doused with redolence. 

The Elf last visited in December 2013. My grandmother passed away in February 2014. Even when I was in on the secret, I chose to believe in magic and my grandmother chose to possess it.

Biography: Kelli Lage is a poetry reader for Bracken Magazine and Best of the Net nominated poet. Her debut full-length poetry collection, Early Cuts,is forthcoming summer 2023 with Kelsay Books. Lage’s work has appeared in Stanchion Zine, Maudlin House, The Lumiere Review, Welter Journal, and elsewhere. Website:

Image supplied by the author