By Catherine Stearns
Feature image: Girl in a Blue Dress, c. 1891 by Philip Wilson Steer
In one photo, she’s wearing a sapphire blue dress,
a black cloche posed rakishly over one eye,
a corsage of pink rosebuds around her wrist.
On the back it says JB & RPS, the man
in shadow next to her. This was before the war,
before they reinstated the marriage bar
and she lost her job when she married my father.
One hot summer night, maybe five years after he died—
we’d stripped down to our underwear to play Scrabble—
I asked her about grad school and her fifth-floor walk-up
with Mary Maud, about eating oysters at the Grand Central
Oyster House every Sunday, and the gold lighter engraved
in the Tiffany font at the back of her jewelry box, and I asked her
if she’d ever slept with anyone besides my dad.
She took an extra long sip of her G&T and told me to
mind my own business. Then reached over
to put her X on a Triple Word.
Catherine Stearns is writer-in-residence at The Roxbury Latin School in West Roxbury, Massachusetts. Her first book of poems, The Transparency of Skin (New Rivers Press), won the Minnesota Voices Project Prize, and a chapbook, Then & Again, was published last year by Slate Roof Press. She has recent poems in The Yale Review, CALYX, and Poetry Daily.
Feature image: Bequeathed by Sir Hugh Walpole 1941. Image released under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported). Photo © Tate.