Aunt Bettie

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Maybe this poem is about family. Maybe it's about The Blues Condition. But maybe as Seal said it best: "It's loneliness that's the killer." lmr

 
 
 
 
 
Aunt Bettie... you are a ghost
from my youth. Dark-skinned, thick boned
"Colored" gal; you were a woman
of the Jim Crow south, who
could cook like no one's business... &
drink most men under
that proverbial table... & 
could cuss like some 
Intergalactic Scatological Champion.
 
But I always sensed
there must have been 
more to you.
 
More than your brooding or that perpetual 
frown upon your brow... more than
the fact that you yelled too much...
more than the sound of your anger,
more than the stink of your moonshine &
more than that paisley-green housecoat... 
which now resides inside
the Smithsonian                   of my mind.
 
 
You were         lonely,           weren't you?
 
Seems like it invaded your posture...
You lugged it around.  You even carried
its sad scent.  You wore it
like a bad wig which did not fit
gracefully upon your head.
Loneliness  told        its saddest secret
on you. Not because you were friendless,
unmarried or
childless & not because you were
unworthy of love. 
 
But you were    lonely,     Aunt Bettie, weren't you?
Why?
I never knew...
 
There are some
people who wear sadness like a soft suit
of armor, or that paisley housecoat...
 
& they leave such deep impressions
that tread like footprints upon the soul
even when they try to hide them. 
 
Oh, Aunt Bettie!  The walls of 
your old home
are now sepia and gray... & I am
reminded of the way you Bogarted
your lemon-scented kitchen...
of morning radio &
some southern DJ chanting
that summer's R & B hits...
or the arrival of stormy weather...
while the sky would sit above us
ironically blue
as the eyes of a newborn European baby.
 
So many years later &
a million miles away,
I think about you all those summers ago...
& I wonder... 
Yes, I  know you are                   gone
& yet
you live
within my head, here
in this somber NY winter,
where there are moments
so cold 
even the tenements shake
as if they too were afflicted with
Parkinson's.
 
 
You were     lonely,      weren't you?
 
Aunt Bettie, something inside
this quietude of my mind
recalls your boldest essence, &
it sings your blues music,
& it hums your secret song
& it sways as your sad samba plays
along the hips             & upon
the faces of dark skinned women
who never smile in public.
 
Yes, you see, I've learned
to read that heartbreak
poetry within
the silent seething of 
their eyes...  Strange, how some shine
like elite yet
unknown stars.
 
Every day, my heart breaks a little,
for them.  Every day
some thing or
someone reminds me of
                                                you
again.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
copyright © 2017 by L.M. Ross
 
 
 
 
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