Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2008 Vol. 7 No. 1

When to Stop

Never knew when to stop, my Aunt, Estelle.
A girl, called to recite
(a thing she did quite well)
she waxed so eloquent,
went on so long,
her Papa growled, “Oh, let up, Stell!”

Kept up, past forty,
singing lessons with Miss Gottschalk;
at seventy-five still clings
to artless, low-cut blouse,
lipsticks the retrograding mouth.

I’ve seen her (in-laws
envying her prelude seafood stems,
half-scornful of her postlude fingerbowls)
presiding at her table,
erect and smiling, answering
her husband’s snarl
with a quick nimble joke
that gave us all escape.

Now he has nothing more
to say to her, to tired-out us,
or to the world,
when he just leans his forehead
hard upon his hand, and
nully forks and chews.
A living silence, she, erect and smiling,
giving his sleeve a quick caress,
eyes like a cherubim’s,
chats on voraciously for two.