by Leah Vahjen
(Winner, Carson McCullers Literary Awards, honorable mention, Poetry)
Time and again I traversed the northeastern
state borders, sicker with each passing blur
of steep lawns and reservoirs,
to arrive at your powdered doughnut
with jelly cars oozing
my family into the warm belly
A family of nine grew up in this hive.
Queen Pauline’s vibrato buzzes about long,
glass honeycombs filled with
marshmallows and Nana-exclusive treats
as she greets Theresa, her blue-eyed surprise.
I am Alice, searching for Cousin Tara
under a canopy of lace, hiding behind the trunks
of trees with human knees, breathing deep
the spores of mothballs. Growing, shrinking.
WhO R U? Eat me. Drink me.
How did you get so pretty? I’m afraid
I still can’t explain myself, Uncle Timmy.
The sliding door suckers open to a sun
porch whose floor of Peter Pan green
synthetic grass is never ending, crunching
like grains of sand from a broken hour glass
beneath our feet. Our uncles tell adult-jokes,
whipping between their nose the same smoke
that choked King Robert to death.
The cuckoo clock mocks its unyielding
reminder: another whole hour, gone. Too late,
I scramble inside, stockings sliding on soft,
slick linoleum. “I didn’t see the bird,”
I coo. Someone I love simply spins back the hand
and makes it happen again.