A novel in verse … and the writing thereof
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Eyebrows Arched

Well, said my daughter, talk about cutting

     straight to bone.

The heart of the matter, I said. Keep an eye on

     that child, Cora; she’s dangerous.

Just then she burst back into the room—

     this was not a child whose entrances

     could ever go unnoticed—

toothbrush in hand, and through lips

     white and foamy, demanded,

“Grimmy, will you tell me

     more tomorrow after school?”

“I thought you didn’t want to know


“Not for school.” Her tone scornful.

     “It’d be wasted.”

No answer required; she spun and was gone,

     the teacups shivering in their saucers as the door

slammed behind her.

“Silly me,” I muttered. “And don’t you be

     laughing at me like that, Cora. I stand by my word:


Cora pushed back her heavy hair,

     —her uncle’s—so different from

her daughter’s slippery strands—and looked at me

with her father’s eyes. Why today

did I see ancestors in every trait?

“What?” I said. “Sorry.”

“What are you going to tell Noreen?”

“I don’t know. The truth?”

“You taught me that

     the truth will bite you back.”

“Did I? What was I thinking?”

“Who knows? But

     that’s what you said:

     Truth is dangerous.”

“Not as dangerous as lies.”

“Really? So tell me, were you in love

     with Danny?”

I moved to the sink, rinsing silverware.

“Uh-huh,” she said, peering round me. “You’re smiling.”

I bumped her with my hip. “Scat, Cora.

     I’m trying to do the dishes here.”

“Sure you are. Okay. I’ll

     take that as a ‘yes.’”

I bent down, setting plates in the dishwasher.

“It’s not that simple, Cora.”

“Of course not. Unless it is.”

“You going shopping today? We’re

     almost out of OJ.”

“What a tragedy. So:

     when you and Noreen talk,

     can I join you?”

“Not on your life. This is between me and Noreen.”

     I stood up, stepping towards the hand towel, and nearly

     ran into her. “A-tch-tch! A little space, please.”

“Oh, come on, Mom!”

“You had your chance,

     years ago.”

“Yeah, but I didn’t think to ask

     about Danny!”

“Your loss,” I said. I couldn’t help smiling.

     “But seriously, if you want to hear

     the love story of my life, you should ask about

     your father.”


“That’s the one.”

“I will then.”

“Fine. But first, let me and Noreen have

     one evening to ourselves, okay?”

“Okay. If I have to,” she sulked, in a

     perfect imitation of her awful

     teenage self, the grudging acquiescence

that could drive me then this close to violence

               but now just made me laugh.

I turned back to the table’s scattered coffee cups

and newspapers, coloring books, crayons,

the latest Western Horseman and New Yorker, not to mention

     tea cups—all the detritus of the evening.               

“I cannot believe the messes this family makes.

Someone’s got to clean this up, so clear out

     and let me get to work!”

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