Wednesday, March 13, 2013

My Old Aunts Play Canasta in a Snow Storm

I ride along in the backseat; the aunt who can drive
picks up each sister at her door, keeps the Pontiac
chugging in each driveway while one or the other
slips into her overshoes and steps out,
closing her door with a click, the wind

lifting the fringe of her white cotton scarf
as she comes down the sidewalk, still pulling on her
new polyester Christmas-stocking mittens.
We have no business to be out in such a storm,
she says, no business at all.

The wind takes her voice and swirls it
like snow across the windshield.
We're on to the next house, the next aunt,
the heater blowing to beat the band.

At the last house, we play canasta,
the deuces wild even as they were in childhood,
the wind blowing through the empty apple trees,
through the shadows of bumper crops. The cards

line up under my aunts' finger bones; eights and nines and aces
straggle and fall into place like well-behaved children.
My aunts shuffle and meld; they laugh like banshees,
as they did in that other kitchen in the 30's that
day Margaret draped a dishtowel over her face
to answer the door. We put her up to it, they say,
laughing; we pushed her. The man—whoever he was—
drove off in a huff while they laughed 'til they hiccupped,

laughing still—I'm one of the girls laughing him down the sidewalk
and into his car, we're rascals sure as farmyard dogs,
we're wild card-players; the snow thickens,
the coffee boils and perks, the wind is a red trey
because, as one or the other says,

We are getting up there in the years; we'll
have to quit sometime. But today,
deal, sister, deal.
 by Marjorie Saiser

Poem gathered at Garrison Keillors "Writers Almanac". Garrison has a weekly radio show, "A Prairie Home Companion". Two hours every week, described as  "a good time that won't wear you out" that I find so soothing to listen to.
Soothing, as is Garrisons voice, so expressive, and he reads so well. He knows exactly when to pause,  when to lower his voice to a whisper, and just when to click his tongue. Sometimes when I am writing a story, his voice will get stuck in my head, and it seems to improve the story, having channeled his wonderful breathing and impeccable timing into into the story.
You can listen to his Writers Almanac entries as well as read them. Today's poem picks up at the 2:10  mark.
I don't know why I've never shared this before.

My friend Susan @ Assorted, she likes it when I do my impression of Maurice from the Cafe Boeuf, a regular sponsor of "Prairie Home Companion",though I don't suppose she has ever actually heard him.


SL said...

I love this poem. You feel that you are at the kitchen table with these women, and let me tell you, these are some great women. I have spent time with them....especially the deep southern version of them. They are rascals, for sure! Enjoyed Maurice, you sound just like him!

red dirt girl said...

LOLOL - Believe it or not I was reading this thinking YOU had written it cowboy (part of some challenge of writing a poem a month) and I was thinking OMG - Cowboy's a POET! How come he's been hiding his light all these years ??? And then my second thought was 'Well damn. How come I can't write a poem as good as this one???' And so birthed the child of envy within me. Think how relieved I was when I read Majorie had written it !!

When I read your posts, i always hear your voice reciting the poem or telling the story - and it always make me smile. Thank you.


bulletholes said...

I hope it doesn't sound too conceited when I tell that this seems like a poem that maybe I COULD write someday. its so simple and direct, with just the right amount of meandering, and wraps itself up at the end with just three words, two being the same.
Thats my kinda writing i tell you what.
And thats the nicest thing I've ever heard, that you hear my voice when you read my stories.

I sent this to Susan already, but if you have 10 minutes, here is Garrison telling his story aboiut a cough, and grandma's mustard plaster. Its not his best story ever, but it is perfect, just like all of his are. The first minute is the ending of a piano/mandolin piece.