The last time I saw her, she hadn’t learned
how to forget her baldness;
like a new sort of brother in an old faith,
she still weighed her order
to the way of the world outside.

Wrapped in a threadbare robe
she padded to the mirror
as we lay in spare beds,
and she creaked over the boards of
warped wood, knots toothy
with mold, under a roof
swayed with the humidity.
Her fingers explored her scalp
the way we rubbed our faces when
the spores and pollen in the rooms
powdered our sweated skin.

She was too thin.
We had breakfast together
without speaking of the paradigm
of the nightly light on the hallway floor,
sat chewing as the persistent forest sent roots
to push the pier-and-beam foundation apart
under the sunny green kitchen
and the rally of the tea kettle.

Aunt Lori wanted to love
a man just one more time.
She thought she had enough
of her reflection left to do it.
My mother didn’t want me to listen
to the unwholesome talk of the sickness
and sent me past the screen door,
its eyelet swinging
and the paint chipping behind.

I could still hear the house
from the wild blueberry thicket
and the grey-slumped barn,
slick with lichen’s primordial thumbs
clinging greedy to the rotted planks.
From the rusty swing I heard
my mother’s voice and hers fluttering,
two moths beating their dust
against that blank window on the yard,
trying to find a way back to what they knew.
It was unlike the other summers, when
golden and warm, flower-smell from the shower
before she went out for the night,
Aunt Lori pushed me in the comfortable
creaking chains in which I rocked.

She laughed then haloed with sun and tanned.
With each arc over the pine needles
an echo called like hidden crickets,
small rub of bravery to tell across walls
the temperature of the unfamiliar rooms
where we would begin to try to sleep.

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