A large woman, she had a powerful aim. Her rock left bruises, but at least she would scrap with me. Our family doesn’t fight. The views most hold are “moderate.” We love moderately. My dad’s favorite play? Tartuffe.
“See what happens when people go off the deep end?” he still says.
“Yes dad, but I’m attracted to the edges, not the middles.”
“It’ll cost you. Dearly.”
It has. When I fall in love, which is too often, I go gung ho. I smother guys. They back off and say, “Ritchie’s too intense.”
They want moderation and a carpenter who comes when he says he will.
Aunt Margot wasn’t moderate. I’d watch her in our magenta-padded rocking chair. While family members clucked about TV stars and the price of milk, she went quiet, a hermetically sealed quiet, as if a fire were burning in a Baggie but couldn’t consume it. She’d look at her daughter (my mom) and her two sisters and their husbands as if they were complete oafs. She held her tongue, like a wood block in a vise.
Later, I’d talk to her. The fire would be smaller. She’d laugh about anything, sometimes to the point of tears.
At 21, I told her I was gay. She saved some big rocks for me over that, but I learned how to dodge most of them. Sometimes I’d bury my head in my own sand. It hurt my ears but saved the skin. My parents didn’t like it but they stiff upper lipped through it.
Mom proclaimed her funeral “nice.” She meant people didn’t wail and carry on. Up at her the coffin (Aunt M insisted it be open) I thought she looked small in the blue dress I remember from many a birthday.
She had asked Pastor Clompus to have us sing “Rock of Ages.” Eeew, I hate that dirge, but I sang, mumbling words I thought I had forgotten. Those many places where her rocks had hit me still hurt, always would I figured. Then again, without her, I knew what to expect at family parties—flat-lined chatter, a rocking chair with no one rocking, just sitting like a Christmas cactus out of season.
Kenneth Pobo won the 2009 poetry chapbook contest from Main Street Rag for his manuscript Trina and the Sky. It was published in 2009. In 2008, WordTech Press published his book called Glass Garden.