Monday, August 27, 2018

"Auntie Doe-Doe" by Lowell Jaeger, Contest Judge

Auntie Doe-Doe
Lowell Jaeger

"Aunt" Watercolor on Paper
By J. Artemus Gordon
Auntie Doe-Doe, bless her bones
underground, consumed us kids in constant fear
she’d scoop us up in her big strong arms
and smother us to her bosom
if we passed her too near.  For this
we secretly admired her, though we dare
never let on. Simply wasn’t characteristic

for my siblings and I to press flesh
to flesh, let alone to be lifted mid-stride,
cuddled and smooched on.  Doe-Doe
wasn’t really one of us, our parents explained,
an in-law.  And we could tell the truth of that
by the way she couldn’t stop being contrary
amidst our kind who kept our hands
to ourselves and stood apart like strangers.

We could conclude, too, by her flame-red
head of electric frizz —tied like a gypsy
with a black bandana —she’d risen from some other
bloodline, a rosy-cheeked race of soft round people.
People with green eyes bright as insect wings.
People who laughed a lot and wore freckles,
freckles everywhere like a room of loud wallpaper.

People who accentuated voluptuousness
by wearing a dust of powdered sugar
on their baking smocks.  People who, 
when we couldn’t escape them, left us
blushing with lingering sweetness.  Left us
brushing their smudges off our t-shirts.  Left us
filling again with our accustomed emptiness.
Left us breathless and wanting more.

Poet's Notes:  Someone (I think I read somewhere) said, “Anyone who has lived at least seven years on this earth has enough material to write about for the rest of his life.” (see Editor's Note)  Especially when we are young, we are in possession of what we now call “fresh eyes,” an unsullied perspective which opens us literally to “see” what others cannot.

My Auntie Doe-Doe fascinated me because she was so unlike the rest of us.  As a kid, I detected a smoldering resentment emanating from my mom’s side of the family each time Doe-Doe entered the room. Doe-Doe smiled and laughed a lot; the rest of us did not.  Doe-Doe hugged and smooched us on the cheek; the rest of us flinched if even by accident we grazed flesh against flesh.

Doe-Doe, I now realize, was my first love, though I dared not show how much I enjoyed her because she was taboo, an outsider, not of our blood.  That’s the story I was told . . . the message relayed with frowns of disapproval . . . but with “fresh eyes” I saw through that story.  What I saw was that Doe-Doe made the rest of us look like a pack of sour-faced Puritans.

As I have aged, I more and more relish quiet space and time to re-examine my childhood.  I chuckle inside when I think about Auntie Doe-Doe.  I saw who she was, who she truly was, and I admired her.  That’s the wisdom of a child.

Editor's Note:  It was Flannery O'Connor who said, "Anybody who has survived his childhood has enough information about life to last him the rest of his days." (Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose, 1970)

"Auntie Doe-Doe" first appeared in Earth-blood & Star-shine.

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