A vole of a woman
some have used the word eccentric
in describing her chestnut split-level hairdo
peaks as high as any to take
the stage at the Grand Old Opry,
the Groucho Marx brows that hover over
eyes lined in black with a shaky hand;
they’re barely able to peer forward for the hunch
that’s carved an s in her spine.
Aunt Ruby remembers long hot summers
as a kid cutting the suckers off the tobacco stems
for $6 a week, how she saved enough
to buy a new pair of shoes
and a couple dresses for school
in the fall. She remembers her father
a self-taught musician
who could play anything, how he
ran a small grocery store
from a shed behind their house
with whatever he could scour up —
toothpaste, mouthwash, hair tonic
and maybe a few watermelons —
we only ate the middle, she says,
threw away the part with the seeds.
At 89, this getting old is for the birds
has become her favorite refrain,
one she repeats often in her weighty Carolina twang.
She’s survived a husband, two daughters,
and three sisters. Death has left its pretty pearls
in a ruin. Memories are the real ghosts, she says,
they’re proof of lives once lived.
Last week Aunt Ruby demanded to know
why I recorded our last visit.
When I told her I don’t own a recorder, she frowned
with all the intensity of old Methuselah, and nothing
could convince her otherwise.
A few days ago she couldn’t remember
which key opened her front door,
standing there for hours, and last night she called
and hung up 11 times. This morning,
her voice is a quivering storm, could I rush right over,
“Cuz I went to the bank and I think
I gave away all my money!”
When I got there, she opened her door as if dressed
for Breakfast at Tiffany’s, White Shoulders wafted
from her lavender blouse. I was reminded in that moment
of how beautiful she was as a young woman.
What Aunt Ruby remembers is like seeing down
a long narrow tunnel. Her thoughts are like snow in the distance
wider than Saturn’s rings.
But for now, the suspicions and feverish fits have thawed
and a sense of normalcy has settled between us;
she remembers it’s her turn to pay for lunch,
“And I’ll hear no more about it,” she says.


Tim Louis Macaluso is an openly gay poet, writer, and award-winning journalist. He has worked in media for much of his career. He was a long-time staff writer for CITY Newspaper in Rochester, NY, where he wrote extensively about education, health care, and local politics. His poetry has appeared in numerous print and online publications.