The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Pelted by Flowers by Kali Lightfoot

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.

Kali Lightfoot lives in Salem, MA. Her poems and reviews of poetry books have appeared in journals and anthologies, including Poetry South, Lavender Review, Broadsides to Books, and Gyroscope. Kali’s work has been nominated twice for Pushcart Prize, and once for Best of the Net. Pelted by Flowersher debut collection, is available from CavanKerry Press and other venues. Kali was once a wilderness ranger in the U.S. Forest Service, and later founding Executive Director of the National Resource Center for Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes; before earning an MFA at Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Callista Buchen is the author of the full-length collection Look Look Look (Black Lawrence Press, 2019), and the chapbooks The Bloody Planet (Black Lawrence Press, 2015) and Double-Mouthed (dancing girl press, 2016). Her work appears in Harpur Palate, Puerto del Sol, Fourteen Hills, and many other journals. She is the winner of the DIAGRAM’s essay contest and the C.D Wright conference’s Emerging Writer award, and is the founder of the Carlson-Stauffer Reading Series at Franklin College. 

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