Upper Peninsula Landscape with Aunts
By Pamela Gemin
Home from casino or fish fry,
the aunts recline
in their sisters' dens,
kicking off canvas shoes
and tucking their nylon footies
on each other's pointy toes
and freckled bunions.
When Action 2 News comes on
they shake their heads and tsk tsk tsk
and stroke their collarbones.
The aunts hold their shoulderstrap purses
tight into their hips
and double-check their back seats.
The last politician they trusted
was FDR, and only then
when he kept his pants on.
The aunts won't be dickered down,
they’ll tell you a buck is a buck,
as they wash and rinse freezer bags,
scrape off aluminum foil.
The aunts know exciting ways
with government cheese,
have furnished trailer homes
with S&H green stamp lamps and Goodwill sofas;
brook trout and venison thaw
in their shining sinks.
With their mops and feather dusters
and buckets of paint on sale,
with their hot glue guns and staplers
and friendly plastic jewelry kits,
with their gallons of closeout furniture stripper,
the aunts are hurricanes who'll marbleize
the inside of your closets
before you've had time
to put coffee on.
The aunts are steam-powered, engine-driven,
early rising women of legendary
soap and water beauty
who’ve pushed dozens of screaming babies
out into this stolen land.
They take lip or guff from no man,
child, or woman; tangle with aunts
and they'll give you what for times six
and then some: don't make them come up those stairs!
And yes they are acquainted
with the Bogeyman,
his belly full of robbery and lies.
The aunts have aimed deer rifles
right between his eyes, dead-bolted him out
and set their dogs upon him,
or gone tavern to tavern to bring him home,
carried him down from his nightmare
with strong black tea, iced his split lips,
painted his fighting cuts with Mercurochrome.
And they have married Cornishmen and Swedes,
and other Irish, married their sons and daughters off
to Italians and Frenchmen and Finns;
buried their parents and husbands and each other,
buried their drowned and fevered and miscarried children;
turned grandchildren upside down
and shaken the swallowed coins loose
from their windpipes; ridden the whole wide world
on the shelves of their hips.
The aunts know paradise is born
from rows of red dirt, red coffee cans,
prayers for rain. Whenever you leave
their houses, you leave with pockets and totes
full of strawberry jam and rum butter balls
and stories that weave themselves into your hair.
Some have already gone to the sky
to make pasties and reorganize the cupboards.
The rest will lead camels
through needles' eyes
to the shimmering kingdom of Heaven.