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Aunt Mary always had hot flashes
that made her cry at weddings, at wakes,
as soon as her foot crossed the threshold.
At her skirt, the moment her hand squeezed
mine and our heart lines pressed close,
my own face flushed crimson with tears.
Aunt Mary cried when cats crossed her path,
at ladders too near doors: bad luck,
bad luck, she cried. Summers at picnics,
she tore at her blouse in the heat, blazed:
hot flashes, hot flashes.
She cried all the way in the car ride back
from the fortune teller in Ohio who said,
it¹s a spell - it¹s a curse. She cried
at the doctor¹s, big with a change-of-life
baby, bad nerves high strung, a flair for
the dramatic that ran-in-the-family, but jumpy
as if her own shadow could be stepped upon,
pulled off, forever lost.
Aunt Mary still cries, mixing up
this face with that name the same
as always, but doesn¹t understand the new word
for it: alzheimer¹s. Aunt Mary, who can spring
to her feet on all the quirky little steps
she remembers of the Charleston, waving
trophies in each hand, rattles walls
with gibberish now, explosive as nebulae
rising from mill furnaces she once stoked.
And I, I cry, bawl, blubber, have a knack
for the boohoo, too. I cry, hot, in the middle
of winter just watching the moon ride low
like a locket against the flushed breast
of night; and when a spark of star catches
my eye, I see: in me her blood runs red.
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