The "you" in this poem is my sister, Marsha.
“I’m here. Yes, really, I am,” you insist.
Thunder shakes the floorboards.
I glance at the clock: 3:00 a.m.
You’re wrapping an apron around your midsection and
coiling the strings in front. They dangle like umbilical cords.
You don silver oven mitts and lift your hands in the air, palms facing outward.
“See you soon!”
You evaporate. The humidity of a freshly mown lawn
rises in your wake.
I hoist myself out of bed and walk through the door
that should lead to my living room.
I walk into the kitchen. Nothing, still.
I slip on my red boots and black jacket
and exit into the darkness.
You’re slumping over a behemoth grill, wrought
in the shape of a skeletal dragon. A vermilion fire
sputters and hisses as flames slither under chops of meat.
“These are my sins,” you observe, casting your eyes down.
The tongs twirl and turn, twirl and turn.
Eventually, the gobbets disintegrate and bits of charcoal
sift over the lambent coals.
Each time this happens, a rib from the dragon
chimes and drops into the furnace.
When the monster is picked clean, you clap
your mitts in coquettish glee and decree,
“Time for chocolate milkshakes!”
You swivel left and there is a picnic table.
You whisk a red and white checkered table cloth
from your pocket
(think pulling a rabbit from a top hat).
With a whoosh, you unfurl it over the table.
We are to sit. Without breaking eye
contact, you hunch over and reach under the table.
When you sit up, your hands hold two chocolate milkshakes (circa 1959 soda fountain)
--frosty, star-glimmers, whipped cream, and a cherry on top.
The straw is paper, so I know these shakes
really and truly are vintage.
(This is where it gets really good.)
You lean across the table toward me,
sip your shake, then sing,
“It’s my birthday today! I’m sixteen.
Everything is possible, exactly as it was when I was that age the first time.
I can start my life over--keep the best parts and lose the worst parts.
That’s how it works here.”