Nancy Means Wright - Aunt Beulah Won’t Take a Walk at Waterbury, a poem


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Nancy Means Wright


    She wears salmon, my father's aunt:
    she's a sun crumbling under a raggedy
    peak, her hair is an ochre cloud— —

    very like a whale… A wave ready
    to scuttle back to its murky deeps,
    she breaks on my shore. Aunt Beulah?

    I'’m taking you out for a walk.
    But her feet lock in the split black shoes.
    She quit speaking long before Uncle

    died, my aunt: her face snapped shut
    at the inquest like a pale pink purse.
    She was sketching when he groaned

    his last (he'd laugh at her paintings,
    master at humor). They never caught
    the killer. Her room at Waterbury

    clutches with sea things: charcoal
    crabs with cobalt eyes and pea-green
    shrimp squeezing out of crimson shells –

    the shrinks can't get to the bottom of it.
    Just for half an hour—promise!
    But Aunt goes on stabbing

    a hot pink husk with her pointed brush
    till the hull is a streaky black
    like dark sliding over water

    and it seems that nothing is there…
    but listen: and hear the suck
    of sand as it swallows the sea. **

    by Nancy Means Wright

  *Waterbury is a Vermont state mental hospital
**Published originally in Green Mountains Review


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