This selection, chosen by Guest Curator Callista Buchen, is from Pelted by Flowers by Kali Lightfoot, released by CavanKerry Press in 2021.
Cousin Margaret’s Friend, 1955
Cousin Margaret opened her door, smiling.
A sweater wrapped tight around her,
she spoke of the chill in Miami that day.
Pale, fey woman, shy with us—
her cousins from the North—an exotic bird
who might at any moment disappear.
Margaret’s friend lightly touched her
shoulder, then filled the space
beside her, smiled, and shook
my father’s hand. They led us to the parlor
for coffee and pie. We balanced china
plates and cups, the adults “catching up.”
The friend promised to take me
to her pet store, making her my hero,
I, the kid who “rescued” sick birds
from our yard back home.
Later my dad and the friend went out back,
laughing together, ripping the husks
from coconuts on a sharpened metal stake,
tall and lethal. Next morning after breakfast
a young man knocked, whisked into the parlor
by Margaret’s friend, murmuring head to head,
poring over charts. Her bookie, my mom
whispered. She’s betting on the horses!
We all went to Hialeah Racetrack that afternoon.
This was years before Cousin Margaret died.
A bum ticker, my dad said.
Margaret’s friend sat in her car outside
her pet store with an old rag stuffed
in the exhaust pipe. Mom and Dad
just clucked their tongues and exchanged a glance.
Half my life went by before I understood.
Now I too have loved a woman and lost
her to death. But not to silence—
I wish I could sit in the parlor
with Margaret’s friend, ask how they met,
ask about their life together, push aside
the china cups and take her hand.
I wish I knew her name.
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