Monday, December 24, 2012

Old America, New America

We visited an old aunt in a dark closet
and she fed us soft chicken and baked apples
and my teeth loosened and my eyes were lost
in a gray beard that looked like steel wool
and it hung down to my large toe that was
swollen and my veins stuck out. And I asked her,
Aunt, I'm frightened, and she sat on the
puffed cushions of the immaculate sofa
and watched anything until two in the morning.
And under her eyes there were wrinkles
and the corkscrew of her skin and my fingers
and my tears and I heard the earth banging.
And outside were maples and roots
and deep in my pocket were small clusters
of people and I reached in and touched them
and they kissed my knuckles and I held them out.
And she stood there childishly, nibbling,
cooking, and I felt there was dust around me
and leaves and the autumn was never
and my life was a thumbnail
and my heart was aching so badly
as I helped someone hobble to the kitchen.
And I said, Aunt, my mother, my sister,
and she held out a picture and money
and the clock was drumming and the water flushing
and the wind and the mountain
and my palms were throbbing.
And in the deep hills in the distance
there were gatherings of roses
and hands and we piled them one on the other
and I helped and I learned and I sang
and we picked my aunt up and held her
and we put her hands in with ours
and we smoothed out her features
and then we went forward, forward,
and she was with us, and so was I,
and so was my Ruthy, and I was so happy
I cried and I cried.

(This poem appeared in New Collage.)