My Mom is trying
to climb a curling flight of white stairs
in teal heels and dangling
rhinestone earrings. She trips on the last step
and can’t make it up. I note her moleless flesh
and how high her cheeks rest
on her skull—and I can’t remember her hair ever
this long or that color brown–
And my Aunt is perched in a gold booth clutching her pocketbook. [I have reservations]
I forget how black she dyes
her hair and she looks like she did
a few years before she died and she is not happy
maybe because Mom has kept her waiting.
And there are other people here staring at empty ecru plates.
And my Aunt’s liquid eyeliner is Cleopatra-thick
and her lips are the usual frosty pink.
But her eyes are blue and we both know they were brown.
And I wonder what is taking
Mom so long to rise as Aunt realizes I am not buying
this anymore. I notice there are a lot more women
sprinkled into the booths. I can’t quite make out
their features but their teeth are sparkling and they are laughing.
And I know this is engineered to disarm me.
So I close my eyes and will myself awake.
And Aunt is sitting unblinking on the edge
of my bed, holding up a mirror, smiling
chasm-wide because she knows this is the scary part.
Victoria Nordlund’s poetry collection Binge Watching Winter on Mute was published by Main Street Rag in June 2019. She is a Best of the Net and Pushcart Prize Nominee, whose work has appeared in PANK Magazine, Rust+Moth, Chestnut Review, Pidgeonholes, Maudlin House, and elsewhere. Visit her at VictoriaNordlund.com.