Aunt Toni's Heart
A motorcycle roaring in the distance --
I sigh myself. I loved her. More than Christmas,
Even more than summer. The day before
Another family reunion, chairs
Unfolded on the lawn, like new fawns. Thighs
Appeared, veined watermelons -- each goodbye
An afternoon of sticky kisses, sweets --
Parked cars made silver rivers from the streets.
I'd hide beneath the table where the men
Played poker in the smoky shade. They bent
Their cards. Red wine, cigars and pepperoni.
It wasn't really whispers when Aunt Toni
Sat right down beside my Uncle Joe -- surprise
Is more like it -- and stared into his eyes:
She smiled at him, waiting to be dealt
A hand. I remember how the green felt
Seemed perfect, clipped back, like a perfect shrine.
My family grew way outside the lines.
My grandmother would say how hard it was
For them when they arrived, each city bus
Gigantic as America, New York
Entire countries warring over work.
They hated Catholics back then. They did,
Italians too. She slowly shook her head.
"That's why you need your family," she'd say.
"Who else is gonna love you?" Which is why
I understood about Aunt Toni's heart.
My grandmother explained that it was hurt --
No, not hurt exactly, just different --
And that inside it was an angel sent
When she was small. The angel's name was Love,
And she was lost. "Aunt Toni's old enough
To try to find her angel now -- that's all
You need to know. The rest is miracle."
I trailed Aunt Toni all day long; she fed
Me chocolate kisses from her hand. I begged
Her, catching fireflies that night, to show
Her angel-heart to me, but she said no.
My father still won't talk about the year
Aunt Toni brought Charlene with her, blonde hair
Drawn back beneath their helmets, the wind and sun
Greedy for more gold. By then, I'd begun
To see the beauty in the world. I knew
She'd found her angel. My own heart felt new.