When my cousin turned eighteen,
she asked if she would go psychotic
like her sister
and two brothers before her--
believe the Nazis had poisoned her,
that she was an unrecognized
minister from France,
or end up in an institution
until she forgot who she was when she went.
I was a psychologist,
but what did I know?
The moon could explode tomorrow,
or dinosaurs could come shooting
out of black holes to rule
our planet like Godzilla did.
My baby cousin,
the tail at the end of the kite
the five of us formed
those Montreat summers,
flying down the steep mountain road,
breathless and barefoot
to plunge headlong into Lake Susan,
so sure life would bring wildflowers
to our hands, forever.
She was never poisoned by the Nazis,
didn't preach in France,
or knock her father flat to his back
on her rare visits home.
A tumor found her, instead.
Thick, like a vine, it strangled her.
Her chair is empty now.
My phone never hands me her voice.
So sure she would outlive me,
I'd willed her the Family Bible
and grandmother's old chocolate set.
Maybe I'll list them on E-bay,
let somebody else
take over our family's hauntings, or
I'll look for a field of wildflowers somewhere,
lie back, watch clouds
turn cartwheels through the silent sky
until dusk falls and petals
drop softly to pillow the ground
Painting: Contentment by Maxwell Parish.
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