Wendy Carlisle The 2River View, 6.1 (Fall 2001)


When Aunt Lou strolled out onto 16th Avenue barefoot,
past the blooming guavas, through their gardens, imagining herself
invisible in her housecoat, as in a magic cloak, the neighbors

read their papers silently in front of mute TVs
while she shambled out of her own hush, her vocabulary
narrowed to a wrinkled forehead. Fifty years before, her fiancé

withdrew into Bolivia’s jungly silence, emptied his conversation
into Holy Orders while, on the home front, she wrote
advertising copy for brassieres, before and during the great war

that robbed so many men of something good to say. Then redeployed
to Opa Locka, volunteered for the Red Cross, wrote essays
under a kumquat tree that dropped its sour harvest at her feet.

Then learned Castilian Spanish, kept her discipline confined to morning
Mass and novels, was alert to words until November when her cortex
came undone and her intent fell through into some jungle,

Padre, Jesus, ayuda me, a last reflex before she looked away,
sweetly knit her hands and ambled out beyond
the poison Oleanders into murmuring air without her shoes. And we,

as witnesses to great conversions stand, struck dumb, to watch,
stare after her like barefoot idiots, robbed of our speech.

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2River All is well.