Monday, April 12, 2021

Aunties by Kevin Young


There’s a way a woman
          will not
her pocketbook
          even pulled
onstage, or called up
to the pulpit—
          there’s a way only
your Auntie can make it
taste right—
          rice & gravy
is a meal
if my late Great Aunt
          Toota makes it—
Aunts cook like
there’s no tomorrow
          & they’re right.
Too hot
is how my Aunt Tuddie
          peppers everything,
her name given
by my father, four, seeing
          her smiling in her crib.
There’s a barrel
full of rainwater
          beside the house
that my infant father will fall
into, trying to see
          himself—the bottom—
& there’s his sister
Margie yanking him out
          by his hair grown long
as superstition. Never mind
the flyswatter they chase you
          round the house
& into the yard with
ready to whup the daylights
          out of you—
that’s only a threat—
Aunties will fix you
          potato salad
& save
you some. Godmothers,
Aunts smoke like
it’s going out of style—
          & it is—
make even gold
teeth look right, shining,
          saying I’ll be
John, with a sigh. Make way
out of no way—
          keep the key
to the scale that weighed
the cotton, the cane
          we raised more
than our share of—
If not them, then who
          will win heaven?
holding tight
to their pocketbooks
          at the pearly gates
just in case.

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