What I’m about to tell you is true.
It was in the paper some few years back,
but I’d forgotten until you asked
about my sister, asked if I thought
she was a pretty baby, asked if I’d
taken good care of her. The answers are yes.
She’s the one with the rich red hair, my father’s
clear grey eyes that can be blue, can be
startled into green. But that’s not the story
I wanted to tell you. Here’s what happened:
Somewhere in Florida a young woman worked
the counter at Bubba’s Bodacious Bar-B-Q,
worked hard because she had a pretty
baby, a daughter she hoped would one day
ease into beautiful. People said, that sure
is a pretty baby, and she believed
them, too much a mother to own that that’s
just what polite people say. She heard
talk about a children’s beauty pageant
coming to town, and this could be her child’s
ticket, but entry was fifty bucks
and how’s she to get that when all she did
was wrangle ribs apart for customers
who never heard of ten percent. Now Bubba’s
doing good, she figured, kept an extra
cash box. So late one night after all were gone,
she carried the big knife, the one Bubba
sharpened while he chewed and spit,
she carried this knife into the back dark
and jimmied open that box for fifty bucks.
I’ll bet all that money shined with promise,
with the pure beauty of opportunity.
She can’t remember hearing Bubba’s footsteps,
how he came up behind her, how she turned,
and the knife, the big knife, sunk right into him.
What she’ll always remember is how she
stood there in his blood and clutched twenty
dollar bills into nests, how she knew then
her daughter would never be beautiful,
would always hunger for the wrong things:
a boy to bring her a bag of blueberries,
his long, hard kiss, her heart wrapped in his hand.
Does this answer your questions? Yes, my
sister is both lovely and dangerous,
and yes, yes, we did the best we could.