Jennifer Whigham


Dear Louise, with the gypsy hair, I see you
in my mother’s mouth,
the dark dry slack lines that
deepen during dinner, or in the dim
hallway when she’s closing
the house for the night

Dear Louise, with the spotted hands, I hear you
in the rhythm of my mother’s sighs,
in the things she does not say,
in the box of letters labeled “keep”
that grows dust under her

The last time anyone saw you
was that summer in Macon
in the tin house with the greasy
chicken smell.  The man whom you called Nurse
kissed my cheek and asked for sugar,
the Southern kind
that doesn’t go in tea

Your hair was bleached, no gypsy left,
and my mother crouched in the doorway,
not speaking,
avoiding mirrors

Dear Louise, you broke her heart. On
your birthday, she backs into herself,
her wrists bare;

She says to me, “Oh, Jenn, oh
priss,” and holds me like a
jewel.  She says, “Don’t
let me leave this world
if you have things you need to know,” 
crosses the date from the calendar,
turns her head

Dear Louise, how dare you be dead,
and leave her in this state.  She dyes her hair
and says she’s Irish, no word of the gypsy
queen who sold her flock

At supper, her prayers
are in the way
she chews her

Date of Birth: January 11, 1981
Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota

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