We grew like tempting red mushrooms on brown tree bark, thriving in the sheltered
light of the woods.
My mother, sitting on top of the picnic table, bowed her head like someone
who didn’t want to be present. Someone who’s drunk so much she’s escaped.
Her doughy shoulders sagged, her wrists swung loose as sticks. Her brown hair
has been bobbed, ironed and poorly dyed blond to the color of orange good-byes.
Jeanie, her older sister, wields her pregnant belly as a shield.
The Rocket Man taking the photograph of the oldest and the youngest sisters
observes Jeanie’s ripeness and the top of my mother’s head. He doesn’t call
their attention when he snaps the photo.
Kneeling in the grass I smell the last of marshmallow coals and I hear the brook
in the woods. My cousin and I talk like children do. Like lovers do.
Like cousins do. Each of us wears red and white plaid bellbottoms.
Board games for boys to yell “King me!” as they cross the line.
How the men see us. We are dirt creatures. Dirt green at the edge of the green woods.
Squatting trees. Poisonous growing dangerous green things. We can blossom
and give Pussy Willow branches. We can hold Buttercups to your chins
to see if you’re favored by love. We can take it all–and steal into the woods again.