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  • Susan Jones

Virtual Open Mic II


will ties of kinship

mark us

like scar tissue tracks the deep

blade a surgeon slid next

to the spinal cord--carving out the known

tumor, shoving nerves

aside--not even an outward

bulge at the site, just a pink divide

knit back to look like one

body, while within

a persistent ache, deep in the middle of your back

pulses, present, always present-

yet fails

to exclude, keep others at bay,

the way a surname once

sufficed? Such


might dawn like the realization

that the bulbous-nosed, rosacea-strewn

woman with the starved hair

sitting in your mother's

big pink chair, white piles

of kleenex stuffed

down her bosom remains tied to you

through her marriage to your great

Uncle Jack--the gambler

who lived off local bankers, politicians,

those high flying optimists

who foolishly ignored his prodigious memory

for a card's face--allowed him

steady income one night a week--

one ample banker good for 8

grand a year. My father knew

the guy's name. They

played in a back room at the Read House

where the Babe

stayed the night he ate

too many dogs at Joe Engel's

Stadium--got sick

as one. Great

Uncle Jack

sold typewriters, dropped

dead walking up that steep

second street hill the doc

told him not

to pull. Once

my grandmother, sweet Margie,

went to visit her

big sister in NYC, saw her brother, Jack

on the sidewalk, some woman wasn't

his wife on his arm. Jack

strolled right on by,

winked. Perhaps the after

life is like that.

Some folks come to us without

ties. My

little sister never spoke, am-

bulated, got

house-broke or out

of diapers. She laughed

and cried enough

but never attached herself

to anyone in particular. We hefted,

bathed, fed, cradled, rocked, dressed

played, avoided, walked, turned her

over, around, upside down

day and night for ten

years. She

perpetually open

to the after-life

and any other kind that shifted

her way.

So you think you're gonna meet

your husband in heaven and take up

where you left off? A quick salute,

the certain end to a long

deployment. Your own

mansion? Maybe you don't realize

you've been struck by lightning, left

standing dead like a tree that will take years

to fall over, much less

send up new green shoots in rain--

if there is rain.

Susan Jones grew up on Signal Mountain and teaches creative writing K-5 at Bright School. She finished her undergraduate degree at UTC and did her graduate work at Johns Hopkins and Rice University. When she's not teaching, reading, walking or writing, she likes to cook.

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