“For Aunt Louise, Who Never Liked Me” by Randy Blythe

Randy Blythe

FOR AUNT LOUISE,WHO NEVER LIKED ME

Some days when she was working in the garden,
she liked everything. July afternoons,
with the tomatoes weeded and the light just right,
she could convince herself she loved everything
and maybe things were the way they were supposed to be,
looking through the apple orchard
for red and yellow shapes soon in the leaves, round and glossy
with the sun behind them. For a second, even
the sweaty little nieces and nephews
napping on the screened-in porch were dear,
the box fan humming next to them
making what little breeze there was on Sand Mountain
some afternoons with the tent preaching
two lots over and one back and the traveling preacher
hollering in the faint hazy distance over the PA
like he wanted the apples to grow
and Aunt Louise to stay the way she was,
schoolmarm-hard, brusque and gray in the eyes
because part of her didn’t care
there was so much beauty in the world
and God had made her with a cold disposition
like she had a rock in her flats,
while zinnias spread out from the center
and the hosta flayed and sprung up
in the sandy ground by the swing
that Uncle Wayne whitewashed before he died.
So she’d had to get old alone
and indifferent about sister’s grandkids staying with her
for a day or two in the summer
when she’d never been able to have any of her own
except for the ones she’d taught history forty years
at the high school. Asleep on the porch,
I was staying with my aunt, dreaming about an ocean
that didn’t have any waves, that just roared
like a box fan on HI, then dreaming so what
if my cousin Jimmy’s chest was broader than mine,
which Aunt Louise had pointed out in front of everybody
when what was bothering her was probably Wayne
not worth flip, drinking behind the store
so he could work up the patience to wait on those
mouthy town kids from Section on credit and be nice to them
so their parents would trade with him
and then having the gall to die.

from Rattle #31, Summer 2009