TQ2 Prose Open Runner-Up
And the waitress said, girls, grits is like grace. You don’t order it, it just comes.
Me and my sister Margaret.
Sun took us out of purple shade into yellow noon.
Gaggle of turquoise-breasted children waddling by.
Ocean flat as fresh-pressed cotton, palm trees quiet in the August heat, pelicans I love and live with diving blue from sky to sea.
Far from the ground of my snow-bound childhood.
My sister looks beautiful.
Orange shift shimmering in sleeveless breeze.
Fashion, in its extreme ephemerality, escapes from Time almost as completely as the eternal and the Absolute.
The present. The body. Its extreme ephemerality.
In my family we think everything to do with the body is in the mind. In my family we think the mind is all that matters.
Meantime, the stock market went right back up again.
Putting on my sweat suit to water the petunias, impatiens, begonias, dusty miller, lantana, lavender in their pots, marigolds that smell like mint.
Though not necessarily in that order.
Fan palm, salvia, croton, bird of paradise, resurrection fern, purple periwinkle by the carport.
My friend Lucy used to say I think too much.
Said the body loves being alive, no matter what, letting the hem down, taking it up, high tide, low tide, pinprick, olives, bull market, redbird, bear.
One spring morning, along the garden path, alone in my skin among the slowly breathing stones.
Inside, the phone rang.
I didn’t think it was God. It was Margaret.
She said sell.
So, Margaret, what do you think, are we in a correction?
Having martinis at Windows on the World.
Midge wants to be known as Margaret.
Recommends gold as a hedge.
Short, plump, my serious sister, working on Wall Street, married to her first husband. Happy.
A biological set point we return to after temporary disturbance.
Margaret says more like the market average, floor and ceiling established over time. Major move to break out, up or down.
Though temporary disturbance can last, or more than.
For instance, him.
He had his charm. Pronounced idiosyncrasy id-i-os-in-cran-cy. Had only ever read the word in books.
Said if he couldn’t take Midge to the Congo over his Ivy League spring break, then he didn’t see the point.
One of the most, I reminded him, dangerous places in the world. The heart of darkness. One month after my mother died.
Mr. Kurtz, I began to call him. As far as I was concerned, he dead.
Meantime, Mr. Kurtz, she wed.
Veil the way my mother did.
Ecru silk suit, wide-brimmed hat, white open sandals on her flat, fat feet. Perfume by squirting a mist, walking through it.
Don’t know where my sister learned to do that.
Oh, said Lucy, she looks like you.
Among the wedding guests, scraped chin, loose tooth, cracked elbow, bruised knee.
Lost fan, jabbed skin, misplaced wedding ring.
Just my mother’s way of making her absence felt.
Not that I believe in such things.
Meantime, her coffin draped with ferns and hothouse roses.
Love to wear suits, the way she did, said Midge
Love to leave lipstick on rims of cups and glasses.
Blue jays flying in and out of the pine trees, phantom leaves swirling in winter wind.
My mother’s name and dates on her new gravestone in the cold, clean, white mid-western
There on the hillside, years ago, in the last bit of nature people will leave alone.
Midge placed a coffin rose inside a silver box to dry, reliquary like the ones we saw in
the museum exhibition:
This reliquary contains Mary Magdalene’s tooth.
A fine example of the architectural caprice of goldsmiths, this reliquary
still contains a fragment of the head of St. James.
This reliquary is described in an inventory of 1430 as lacking a foot.
We laughed. My mother’s pretty, four-note, rising laughter. Sentences, conversation, simultaneous breath. The longevity of bone.
The market, meantime, hit another all-time high.
In Midge’s New York fridge a bag of rice caramel chocolates.
Called her at the office but already gone to lunch.
Nobody knew exactly where I was. I could have been still flying, missing, dying.
My whole life flashing before my eyes. Brittle frames of film run backwards:
That time I stole Midge’s week’s allowance for records at the record store.
Sinatra. Ella. Because I wanted to drown her
Opened the cage door to the snow-wrapped woods, freed her white pet rabbit.
Held her screaming at the baptismal font.
Even before that.
Sitting down to dinner, seven o’clock, linen, crystal, the good flatware.
Everything in place.
Madame, the telephone.
Teacher asking where was my ride.
All the other school kids from the jungle gym long since.
Before she remembered. One chair, my chair, empty as oblivion.
But you also have your mother’s warmth and charm and wit, said Lucy.
What do you mean, I said, also.
Ate every one of those rice caramel chocolates before Midge called me back.
Where it says I, it means me.
Where it says she, it means Margaret or Lucy or my poor mother.
Where it says she, it means said. It means dead.
Not that she was such a good guide, but I miss my mother.
The market had its worst week, points dropped, ever.
Laurel Blossom is the author of two book-length narrative prose poems, Degrees of Latitude, published in 2007, and Longevity, due out in 2015, both from Four Way Books. Previous books of lyric poetry include Wednesday: New and Selected Poems, The Papers Said, What’s Wrong, and a chapbook, Any Minute.