by C. J. Trotter

         —after M. Dickman


I’ve come to expect her visits
now that my parents are gone. I’ve tried
not to be scared by her routine—
the pounding on pavement, the vibrations
of earth as she lumbers down the street,
concrete crumbling under tons of bulk
intent on paying me a call. I’ve managed
to steer her to prettier places, more hopeful
than mine with cheerful chirpy birds,
Napier grass and a moist mossy fragrance,
enough to complement her endless wall
of gray. But she nudges her way in tonight,
my doorframe jerking and popping
under the swell of her body pressure.
I imagine her crushing my chest—the size
of her skull alone!—she can press me
into a puddle on the carpet, a shrunken pile
of bones small enough to fit in a jiffy bag
or an urn. Instead, she flaps her big fan ears
and a surge of air gusts through, knocking
my designer makeup off the vanity.
You’re all about avoidance, she says
clearly irritated, and I’m impressed
by her impeccable diction, thinking hard
on what my mother would do. So I offer her
anything green—an aging Staghorn fern,
a can of Picholine olives, an apple-sweetened
martini—and tell her to make herself
comfortable. While she chews, I talk about
melting ice caps, the latest King novel,
and the cost of higher education until
her eyes get milky like she’s got an errant lash
and she says, You’re doing it again,
you’re such an expert at denial, such
a talking head, and orders me into
my father’s record collection. Find
Bobby Hackett, she says. Play him
till you feel him, play him loud and long,
and when I tell her I’m worried about
disturbing the neighbors, she winces.
So I dig up the old trumpeter buried under
stacks of memories and we sit on the floor,
her trunk wrapped around my scrawny shoulders,
and now that we’re close, I can see
from the graying whiskers around her eyes
and the flesh sagging in deep ripples
around her midriff that she’s an old girl,
and I’m pretty sure she also knows loss.
I’m about to ask if she’d like a facial
but think better of it and instead try listening
to the piercing tones of the trumpet,
the stillness of silence between the notes,
until I’m pressed into a water stain on the carpet,
puddling near a photo of my parents
in a darkened nightclub, bodies twitching
to Hackett’s horn as it smoked the blues.

C. J. Trotter (a.k.a. Christine Trotter) is a poet and fiction writer based in New York City. Her work has appeared in Crack the Spine, FishFood Literary Magazine, Spank the Carp, Elm Literary Magazine, Typehouse, and Cimarron Review, among other publications. When she is not writing or playing the guitar, she is checking baseball stats, or fantasizing about the high that must come from sliding into home base just under the catcher’s mitt.