Family Reunion

Disclaimer: Adult Content. This is a dark poem, based loosely on a situation I knew of. I fictionalized it as a short story years ago, then carried it over into a poetic format. It is highly embellished fiction. I am linking it to dVerse Poetics where Fred has written an incredible instruction on Acting, Poetry and the First Person Narrative.

old lady

Family Reunion

Her arm dangles,
an unnecessary appendage on her right side.
Eyes-squeeze tight–
block out light and sound.

Shove the window ajar, somebody.
Let fresh air filter in.

Her ebony caregiver,
brandishing a
Caribbean accent and a mound of cornrows,
towers over the husk of the Woman,
shovels spoonfuls of
gruel into a flaccid mouth.
Paste trickles out the
corner of chapped lips,
slithers onto a bib.

Fifty years ago she adopted me then set me aside
like a toy she grew bored of.
I look at her shattered body.
Why so much Fear?

There they sit-
caged in frames on her nightstand-
the Woman’s three birth-children:
two girls and a boy.
Staring at nothing.
The son at twenty-one, a senior
at Columbia, off’d himself.
Paprika freckled face, red hair
splattered on the dorm wall.
Beneath Brendon’s body lay
a report card: a
B+ on some damn test.

Mallory, the middle daughter,
split at eighteen.
Tall, anorexic,
her sallow complexion highlighted
bruises on her neck.
The girl didn’t try to hide her
passion for exotic,
erotic amusement.
Defiance of the Woman who viewed
pleasure as an interruption
in the Business of Life.

In 1989,
the Woman received a call from New
York City.

Mallory died; a bad lot of Heroin,
the warden said.
They know how to get things past us.

Mallory was in prison? the Woman screeched.

Yeah.
Second-degree
manslaughter of a john.
He wanted her to do things
she didn’t like.

Her youngest daughter, Jessica, can’t
leave her own home.
Only way I can control her,
Jessica confided to me one day.
I’m tired of being her trophy:
dusted off
and shown to company.
Agoraphobia, she explained.

An excuse to not perform on demand,
my mind corrects.

Jessica shops from catalogues and fills
the empty rooms of her Brentwood mansion
with unopened boxes of china.
Her husband lives in West
Palm Beach with his mistress.

It’s been fifteen years since
I visited Jessica.
Anemic,
drawn,
chain-smoking:
casting a tacky yellow film
on the kitchen counter.
She gave me a jar of peanut butter.
No bread, no crackers.
Not even the fucking china.
Just a spoon.

When her mother dies she’ll light
a charcoal fire in her bathroom,
slip into a tub full of bubbles,
then into nothingness.
That’s what she promised.

A loud groan snaps me back
into the room.
Clattering dishes
smash onto the floor.
The woman sweeps a disfigured hand
across the tray.

She’s done, the aide says,
You’re the only one who’s visited her
in months.
She doesn’t respond to anything, anyone.

We’ll see, I answer.
Do you remember?
I start out,
lead her back in time.
When you took us . . .?
We ramble down the alley of the past.
She smiles.

Do you remember Plato?
That damn dog, she sighs
as Cornrows gapes.

Clear as can be she says it:
That damn dog.

We wander through the
olden days,
pluck memories,
one-by-one.
When I mention Cape Cod,
half her lip turns upward.

We need a minute alone,
I tell the attendant,
then pull my chair closer.

Do you miss your family?

The Woman turns,
faces me with open,
opaque eyes.

You’ve paid for the past,
I whisper,
gather the withered relic
into my embrace.
It’s okay to go now.

She closes her eyes,
Bends her head,
accepts forgiveness.
Lifting her head, she stares at the
pea green wall.
Tears spill down
rumpled cheeks.

I kiss her brow then
leave the room.

When I turn to study her one last time,
a glorious half-smile spreads
across her face.
I love you,
I toss into the
almost-empty room.
(As much as I can.)

Within the month
she escapes.
Jessica holds true to her promise, too.

Today they bury the two of them
beside the others.
The whole family,
together.