Oct/Nov 2004 Poetry

The Transfer to Higher Security

by Arlene Ang

The Transfer to Higher Security

Mother never shouts. She just picks
at phantom lint, the starched skirt
stiff as her crossed legs, lips
that suppress red gloss to a thin
flatline: it was the correctional again.

Your aunt set the gym on fire,
she never mentions her sister's name.
Queasy under the charring scrutiny
of her bifocals, I thump my shoes
until mud crusts her Tibetan carpet.

In the kitchen, Father juggles his chance
at whiskey and rum. I am always the decoy
while he is never good house help.
My fingers vellicate for the Zippo
in my pocket, a gift before the arrest.

Scissor, paper, stick and stone.
The lighter flashes me back
to that summer when florid hands
imparted the secrets of combustion,
the appeal of matches, cannabis.

It's the penitentiary now, Mother flicks
at my coat, a strand of feline hair. No doubt
people will talk.
Dirt-free, I slink
away to visit Aunt Matilda. Never quick
enough to avoid That cat not dead yet?


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