Elegy to the Queen of Hearts
Mechanically, you circled
out of the garage, the same
one you parked in Monday through
Friday for the past 25
years. When you reached the exit,
you couldn’t remember which
way to turn to make it to
the same house you lived in for
19 years. That’s when the doctors
discovered the tumor.
I saw you just two months
before as you taught my
3-year-old son how to play
online poker, and I watched
talk shows in bed with you, no
clue that a growth threatened to
steal those memories. I saw
you next at my dad’s funeral,
wearing a hat because the
wig was too itchy. You
stumbled and fell on the plane,
your sister explaining that
you were ok despite your
bloody knee — you just sometimes
lost your balance. I tried to be
strong when I saw you, but I
lost it, collapsing, crying in
your unsteady arms. You still
were able to dry my tears.
I was 5 months along with
my next son and you parked your
hand on my belly — the only
thing you wanted was to feel
the new life growing inside
of me. And you did. That was
the last time I saw you
until your own funeral,
and I brought the baby that
had lived in my belly, the
one you told me I needed,
and I nursed in a room next
to your casket. Nearly
500 people showed up
to say goodbye, and my son
wrapped his hand around my finger.
3 Otis Street
This house is yellow. It used to be bone white.
Yes, I lived here when I was a little
girl, hair down to my waist, always in braids.
You’ve lived here almost twenty years now, so
it’s ok with me that you made some changes.
This old Victorian needed to be
brought back to life, a brighter one.
The foyer is as cold as I remember,
winter boots piled high, though none fit me now.
That’s the closet where I used to hide
underneath my mom’s puffy and woolen
jackets, feeling the wall for a secret
passage that didn’t exist. I wanted to escape.
Did you try to find a way out, too?
I was sure this house was haunted, all
the creaks and squeaks and rattles,
all warning me of something — or someone.
We had the ugliest golden
carpet, matted and stained, and the green
paisley couches had matching arm protectors.
The dining room was always empty, but
I kept my crayons and coloring books
in these built-in shelves. The kitchen
is different, modern now. I remember
when we had our first microwave,
so clunky on the counter.
But still, if my mom forgot to thaw the
meat, she conveniently forgot about
the newfangled contraption, and she’d
use it as an excuse to eat out.
The crazy second staircase is still
here, just as narrow. My sister’s
room was on the left. I can almost smell
the cedar bookshelf filled with Nancy Drew
mysteries and the Funk and Wagnall
encyclopedias. The windows are
original and drafty, heavy, letting the eerie
chill in. I see you didn’t cut down the
giant maple. My dad, gone eight years now,
would rake the leaves into rounded red and
orange piles just so I could jump in. Past
where the garden used to be, I had a
metal swing set that popped off the ground
whenever I would swing too high. Beyond
that, well, I don’t know if I’m ready
to talk about the fort. My foster brothers
knotted the branches together to make
a secret hideout. Did you ever find
the box of evil memories I buried in the
dirt? It was ugly and gray, storms locked
inside. I don’t think I dug down deep enough.
Maybe the memories became tangled in the
raspberry bushes. I was hoping they
could be suffocated, like my innocence was.
Let’s find my old room, it was next
to the attic. I see you changed the
wallpaper - it’s painted a pale pink now.
My parents let me design this room, and
I wanted to be an astronaut. The
walls used to be pasted with red, blue and
yellow stars with a rocket border, and
I dreamed I could fly to the moon.
For My Brother
I used to steal
your heavy hoop
earrings, too big for my ears,
but you never cared.
Mom brought you
to the salon for
an eyebrow waxing,
and you cried out in pain.
I wished that I
fit into your white dress
with the silver sparkles,
but you didn’t want to go to the dance.
Your mane was thick
and wavy, the envy
of many thin-haired girls,
but you wanted to cut it off.
Mom convinced me
that you wouldn’t want to be a bridesmaid
in my wedding. Maybe you didn’t,
but I never gave you the chance to say no.
I helped you pick out a fuchsia
skirt suit to wear on my big day,
a quick shopping trip because
you weren’t into fashion.
We were always opposites,
you into Star Trek, me into
Anne of Green Gables, but
maybe we’re more alike than I thought.
It turns out we both
have body image issues,
but for different reasons.
I just want to lose some weight, you want
to lose your breasts.
We’ll never again share earrings
or a trip to the spa, but
we’re both writers who can
share our stories.
You now choose a tie
to wear to work, and you
clipped your hair short,
just like you always wanted.
I couldn’t love you more.