Poetry: One Good Eye | clivejames.com
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One Good Eye

Lost in the lush flesh
of my crannied aunt,
I felt her smell
of glycerine, rosewater
and long enclosure
enclosing me,
and held my breath
until she'd clucked
and muttered me
to my reluctant
unmuttering uncle
within whose huge
and pudgy palm
my own small-boned hand
was gravely taken,
shaken, and released.
Sunday: sunlight
oozing through drawn blinds
of the dining room
over fried okra
and steaming greens,
cherry yum-yum
and candied yams,
Navy knives and forks,
placemats picturing
national parks.
Bless these gifts
we're about to receive,
my uncle mumbled
and my aunt amened,
before with slow clinks
and shakes, amphibious
slurps and gurgles,
they dug untasting
in, bits of gifts
not quite received
tumbling down
laminated canyons,
improbable waterfalls,
far, clear mountains.
Nothing stopped
unless I stopped:
their mouths surprised
wide on half-finished
mouthfuls, my aunt
in unfeigned alarm
straining a full bowl
or meat-laden plate
in front of me,
little jiggles
shooting through
wattled, weighted
arms and my iced tea.
Exhausted, sprawled
on vinyl recliners
in the dim glooms
of the half-lit den,
they shouted down
the loud television
telling me
which neighbor's name
was in the news
that week, whose heart
stopped in sleep,
or some man by cancer
eaten clean away.
It's early yet,
they'd sigh and say
if I sighed or said
anything at all
about leaving,
nodding their heads
at me and nodding
noisily off
like a parody
of people sleeping:
my aunt's face crazed
with whiskery twitches,
her glass eye slitted
eerily open;
the unmuscled melt
of my uncle,
broad-skulled, flaring
forested nostrils.
The lamp, handcrafted
out of Coke cans,
flickered erratically
if I moved. The clock,
shaped like the state —
El Paso nine,
Amarillo noon,
and the vast plastic
where we were — ticked
each itchy instant.
Then it was time:
my uncle blundering
above me, gasping
tobacco and last
while my aunt,
bleary, tears bright
in her one good eye,
fussed and wished
the day was longer,
kissed and sloshed
herself around me,
a long last hold
from which I held
myself back,
enduring each
hot, wet breath, each
laborious beat
of her heart, thinking
it would never end.