My sister, God bless her, used to eat dirt. She used to make piles in the lawn, cup her hands around the mounds of enriched soil and drink. Her drinking was a problem, God bless her. Years later, we teased her. We called her the worm baby because she drank goddamn worms. And God bless the worm baby who had pinworms maybe three or four times that year. Medication. Doctors. More dirt. She was a needy worm baby. My mother had had it, and God bless my sister who knew this and ingested the dirt anyway. So there, she screamed into my mother’s face. We were told to take our shoes off at the door, to use paper towels as wastefully as possible, to never wear white because it would only make a mother’s life harder. But mom, there’s really nothing to fear. Some day you will take the trowel (or maybe your bare hands?), reluctantly, and make your own glorious mound. My sister, God bless her, already knew how.
GERTRUDE’S ATTIC /
We fold my grandmother’s clothing into triangles before we sell them. It’s an occasion. Flowers, dollar bills. It’s 5pm in the islands. We lay the flowers out like rain, which she loved, but did not trust. We don’t sleep on the bed, but rather it sleeps on us. It’s our roof. It’s 5pm in the islands. I remember guilt and what it looks like strumming through a whole body. We open the closet, notice her shoes are too clean. It’s 5pm in the islands. We take off our sneakers, leave them outside. Mud between our toes, like pewter. The photo albums of her son’s birth and his marriage stay hidden in a drawer. They hadn’t spoken in over ten years. The son still cannot speak. It’s 5pm in the islands. For Gertrude, her brother spoke too much. Wooden lungs. The rain, a heavy chord of amethyst dust. It’s 5pm in the islands. Where is the jewelry? Everyone wants to know about the good stuff. She pawned the rubies. She prepared for death this way. It’s 5pm in the islands. Everything is stored up above, our luggage waits in the heat. The roof has an isosceles-shape. She was all angles. Her neck. Her shoulders kept everything tied to strings.
JAIMIE GUSMAN lives in Kailua, HI, where she works as an instructor and freelance writer. Jaimie runs Mixing Innovative Arts, a monthly reading series and summer writing workshop in Honolulu. She is the author of The Anyjar (Highway 101 Press) and One Petal Row (Tinfish Press). She is also the winner of the Academy of American Poets Prize (2013) and first place winner of the Ian MacMillan Award (2013).