Kevin Young

There's a way a woman
will not

her pocketbook
even pulled
onstage, or called up

to the pulpit—
there's a way only
your Auntie can make it

taste right—
rice & gravy
is a meal

if my late Great Aunt
Toota makes it—
Aunts cook like

there's no tomorrow
& they're right.
Too hot

is how my Aunt Tuddie
peppers everything,
her name given

by my father, four, seeing
her smiling in her crib.
There's a barrel

full of rainwater
beside the house
that my infant father will fall

into, trying to see
himself—the bottom—
& there's his sister

Margie yanking him out
by his hair grown long
as superstition. Never mind

the flyswatter they chase you
round the house
& into the yard with

ready to whup the daylights
out of you—
that's only a threat—

Aunties will fix you
potato salad
& save

you some. Godmothers,
Aunts smoke like

it's going out of style—
& it is—
make even gold

teeth look right, shining.
saying I'll be
John, with a sigh. Make way

out of no way—
keep they key
to the scale that weighed

the cotton, the cane
we raised more
than our share of—

If not them, then who
will win heaven?
holding tight

to their pocketbooks
at the pearly gates
just in case.

Last updated October 23, 2022