Summer shooter: father’s side

Shooter (slang): a small amount (called a shot) of liquor

In the summers, our house in the elbow
of the L that makes the alley, fills

with aunts and uncles from the capital—
distant cousins whose names I can never

get straight until two weeks later
or when they are about to leave.

While they’re there our home’s turned
upside down— mats and mattresses

spread on the living room floor,
constant pounding on bathroom doors.

Two card tables shore up each end
of the dining table, and the kitchen’s

awash in dishes. Mother grumbles
at how cheap they are— how they

can afford memberships at country clubs,
yet would rather stay with us so they won’t

have to pay for meals and lodging. I’m eleven,
but already I’ve had my period. Mother dresses me

in a caftan she sewed herself. I think it looks
like a giant pillowcase. I envy the ease with which

the nephews run around in khaki shorts and jeans.
They smell of suntan lotion and know how to swim.

I’m prone to headaches and acne, and when they’re mean
they call me “Tita Moon Base”— as if my brown face

were lunar, pockmarked with stations for their
unwelcome landing. One afternoon when I come to her

in tears, abruptly, she stops what she’s doing. Wiping
her hands on a dish towel, she leans toward me,

conspiratorial: Why don’t we leave them all for a while
and go to the movies?
We slip out without telling.

I can’t remember what film we watch; perhaps,
a comedy. And before we go in she buys a box

of chocolate. Each piece, foil-wrapped, liqueur-
filled, is shaped like a little bottle. We peel

and eat them one by one, and laugh through the show.
When we emerge from the theatre, evening has fallen.


In response to Via Negativa: After jousting.

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