Tuesday, April 7, 2015

An Ubi Sunt for Certain Aunts by Jennifer Horne

An Ubi Sunt for Certain Aunts
by Jennifer Horne

Those enervated, hypothyroidal, smoking southern ladies
clad in crisply ironed men’s shirts, slacks, canvas shoes,
never without a certain amount of frustration, life being
never as beautiful or perfect as they had been led to expect—
their wry humor, dry laugh, yet nothing but praise and charm
for the children: “Oh honey, oh sweetness, oh darlin’,”
as though we were the loveliest confections, too pretty to eat—
saved for themselves the scathing insults:
“Stupid, stupid, stupid,” at little mistakes—spilled sugar,
a bad marriage, teaching us young to be infinitely generous
with others. I decided to retrieve their softly dropped r’s:
dinner party, otherwise, suppertime, motherhood,
their language the patois of defeat, a desuetude I rejected.
They mostly died before seventy, their permanent disappointments
turned inward, though nothing as showy as cancer, heart attack,
stroke. Just a gradual shrinkage, the slow flaking of paint
on an old house, its imperceptibly liquid panes.
Oh ladies, I would like to clasp you to my grown-up bosom
(a word you used freely, it used to embarrass me no end),
smooth the puzzlement from the cracked glaze of your faces,
and soothe, “Not stupid. Honey. Sweetness. Beautiful aunts,
aunts of my youth.” I see you, in mind’s eye, sighing back at me,
a chorus wreathed in smoke, languid movements of the wrist:
“Oh darlin’,” you begin, “Let me tell you about the time . . . ”
Lost. Unsalvageable. Lovely.

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