El­gin County


in my mother’s black Kia driv­ing home from my grand­par­ents’ on Christ­mas Eve eve through white-blue snow clumped in the di­min­ished wheat fields sur­round­ing thread­bare barns and aban­doned grey houses whiter snow hang­ing on the dark pines like shear­ling trim along the high­way the sky sat­u­rated with it­self and lines of geese and white and grey fly­catch­ers while vo­ra­cious crows in­ter­pret the in­nards of road­kill deer and rac­coons and no peo­ple re­ally just the ra­dio in and out pop hol­i­day clas­sics and the CBC hourly count­ing catas­tro­phes while just hours be­fore

I pressed my grand­mother at her long din­ing ta­ble on the French cousin who died in an­other stretch of farm­land the gay ar­chi­tect-turned-artist re­turned from Eng­land with can­cer of the mouth and my mother said aids in a pause in­serted the word like a pill be­neath the tongue aids as if we could mis­take it can­cer of the mouth

for par­en­thet­i­cal as if how ter­ri­ble the words aids

on all our tongues can­cer of the mouth even if not spo­ken the di­ag­no­sis con­firmed they think in the bright liv­ing room of one or an­other cousin she’s not sure and how ter­ri­ble

he was thirty-seven I think they think and his sis­ter

now has a daugh­ter pink

and white an in­no­cent and she is the fam­ily joy and I stared at my grand­mother her face lit by a pair of tif­fany lamps on the maple hutch won­der­ing where my widow’s peak came from if not from her

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