In this exercise, I wrote about my aunt--a truly outrageous and wonderful woman. I'm not sure she'd approve of my memory, but she's too old to be reading blogs and I'll just have to trust my cousins to keep their mouths shut.
In my favorite Easter memory of Lillian Nel
I am ten years old and she, perhaps thirty,
Chanel Number Five and whiskey.
She leans against the basement pool table,
Strikes a sultry pose, like Lauren Bacall,
Cigarette balanced in her right hand.
Her long and autumn-leafed hair brushes
Against the collar of her yellow, shirtwaist,
Cinched in with a grass-colored belt,
Matching stiletto heels,
A purse the size of Portugal.
Lillian Nel inhales. Her cigarette
Glows ruby-colored gems,
Birthstone rings on every finger.
My brother's dazzling smile,
Humphrey Bogart eyes, lures her into his game.
As white smoke curls into the light,
Hovers above her, a vaporous halo,
She takes her cue, looks up at me through
Spider-leg lashes and shoots—the white ball
Clacks against a triangle
Bright as Easter eggs dyed last night
Because Jesus rose from the dead.
As balls dart out, sink into felted pockets
And disappear; my brother raises a toast to
Our favorite aunt, for whom no rules apply.
Behind the bar, Patsy Cline falls to pieces,
And my father, with his Hamm’s Beer sign flashing
Blue neon on his hair, pours his sister another.
Upstairs, my mother, who doesn’t approve of women
Who smoke, play pool, and drink whiskey sours,
Fries our aunt's favorite buttermilk-battered chicken
In a cast iron skillet. Though she longs for glamour,
Lillian Nel can’t escape the Appalachian past
Any more than my brother, his school photos
Still smiling above the knots in the pine paneling,
Will dodge a future where the god of heroin waits--
A gaping black pocket
Where brightness disappears.