Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2016  Vol. 15 No. 1
an online journal of literature and the arts
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from Effusive Greetings to Friends

Not Heaven, Just Death, Please

Ms. Hazel Hicks, 93, formerly of Fork Mountain,
arrived today in Purgatory, a bit ahead of schedule.

In August, the month of Hazel’s birth,
her parents carry the squirming,
swaddled child to the porch

Ms. Hicks was preceded in her travels by brothers
and pets, parents and aunts, grandparents who’d talk

only after dark to avoid the heat. Dizzy and warm
with the sway and flush of night air,
Hazel hears the careless scrape

of their over-worn shoes. She sends apologetic
and effusive greetings to friends, especially Zylphia,

of the owl’s call. Her mother nudges a nipple
to Hazel’s lips; when the rain blooms
on the roof, her little fists unfurl,

as she recovers strength from witnessing
Ms. Hicks’s collapse in the rock garden.

she loosens into sleep.

Ms. Hicks is known for her blight-free tomatoes
and her annual backyard dance, at which

Hazel’s mother dips and turns and coos;
the child absorbs a fearless
stumble and thrum,

nobody dances except drunks and children
and Ms. Hicks, who spins outrageously in the kitchen

sways through her mother’s soft-moving
shoes. It’s a dance, just for Hazel—
baby, strange one, dear—

while twilight rises and she refills the chip bowl.
Guests see her high-flung arms through the window,

she half awakes—

her shimmying shoulders, but when Ms. Hicks steps
serenely back with food, only the drunks and children applaud.

I’m here, she creaks in unsettled cries.
Now what would you advise?

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