My favorite aunt was unmarried, half deaf
and lived alone in a smoke-filled room
at the Curtis Hotel in Minneapolis.
Once beautiful, she still had her vanity.
Her hip, mangled in surgery,
gave her a spasmodic gait, she flapped
down Oakland Avenue to visit us
like a tall crane who’d had a few.
I loved the sight of her, ran to
the frazzled, overpermed head, the
too-bright ruby lips, the strong perfume.
For all the appearances of inutile femininity,
she was to me, a half divinity.
The auntness of aunts, their
bemused, hat-askance objectivity.
They belong to no one and to everyone
and can offer a child another reality.
How many times she took me home
to her apartment hoping to give
my busy mother a small reprieve
handed me a pencil and drawing pad
then made me feel like Michaelangelo.
Now thinking back, I wish I had
given back just half of what she gave to me.