Memory Noir

Cigarette smoke and cheap perfume

linger in a dance of remembrance

An unmarried aunt who clerked in a store

her rummage sale pearls yellow with age

wrapped around my memories and my fascinations

I was eleven years old when she died

and I heard my parents say: “Floss was never really happy”

But to me, she always smiled and took a

nickel from her shiny black plastic purse when itwas time for

us to leave…

putting the coin in my hand and a big red lipstick

kiss on my cheek

Looking back, I think it was my parents who were

unhappy with who she was

There were whispers of past husbands and

maybe a child—but no one ever talked about it out loud

In a black and white 1950’s world Aunt Florence

was bigger than their disappointments

Living in the shadows of the post war mid-century   

 a ‘loser’ could slip into one and hang on

She has outlived almost everything

I was encouraged to forget

  and her life has become rich in my memory

 —growing richer with time


(Lansdowne Pennsylvania: 1959)



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