Anne Lester

By Emma Aylor

Sleeping it off last night I dreamed I had one lung.
The other next to me in bed dark and putting
off smoke.                      When you were young
I passed my Virginia Slim so you wouldn’t get
the taste for it: I remember standing in the kitchen
lighting it up                                        for my girl.
You never did smoke after that. In front of the TV
last night I spilled the whole drink down my shirt
          a little in this world                                    a little in the other.

I’ve been Anne Moore for most of my life.
My last morning as Lester I looked
like Liz Taylor’s sister                        hair dark and glossed.
It’s hard to remember myself like that.
I depend on a picture to know I was beautiful –

waist a switch                in a virgin’s dress.
Couldn’t have done better at nineteen,
grew up so close to Tennessee.
We moved all over the plains for a time
and came back to Bill’s dad’s store.
I remember days up to my elbows in spicy chili,
nights raising you                               right up the hill.

My hands have shaken my whole life. Always think
it could have been worse. A favorite joke:
a parrot who swears is punished by being put
in the freezer. Once, it sees a frozen turkey
in the corner                          and says,
DAMN, that bird must                         have said fuck.
             I remember I told you and your daughter         you looked at me
like I didn’t understand a single stupid thing.
Would it make a difference if I did

that same house    your father repeating            GODDAMN IT ANNE
like a stuck station in front of you and all
my children’s                      children

it’s morning in the bath now and I’m not getting up yet.
In the water a bruise on my arm
develops like a litmus paper                               a little
yellow –                                 hardly acidic.

I remember leaving your daughter at the pool while I wet
my brain               came back to her sunburned
pink as a hot pig.              Remember she fell
off the bed and scarred her little nose
a white line still                            cut through the freckles.
Light through the bathroom                        glancing sideways.
            My daddy drank. I remember how bad.
It’s not really a reason                          but I remember enough.
My chest clutches                 a little
and then fills up.       Water gets a little bluer
with what comes off my skin.
It’s not possible that you remember me.

Emma Aylor’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in 32 Poems, Colorado Review, Pleiades, Sycamore Review, and the Cincinnati Review, among other journals, and she received Shenandoah’s 2020 Graybeal-Gowen Prize for Virginia Poets. She lives in Lubbock, Texas.

Originally appeared in New Ohio Review 29.

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