Cynthia Manick: “Ethel September”

Ethel September

Your rocking chair sways by itself now,
a phantom southern belle of floral cotton

the snapping of peas nipping at tips. In your
youth, twirling in taffeta and silk, a pastel fan,

a curve of lip, you’re a debutante. Feet bare of
cloth, you run through fields, ants on ankles–

belly moving to the sound of bullfrogs. Holding
your hand and a strand of poppies, your brother

leads you to a tree where peaches fly. And there
you sit, stuffing pits of cherries into the side

of your cheeks and nose. Have you seen Mr. Nat?
They placed him in a wicker chair, brown toes

cocked up towards the Carolinas. The cancer flies
gathered in his pockets, death followed and settled.

Is he there yet? Now you are on the porch. That house
of white shutters and long necked bottles of coke.

My father lays on your lap, head lolled to crickets, and
you begin to sing, “mah honey, mah honey, mah honey.”