Poem: Aunt Ila, by Stacy Torian

I hold the boxquilt next to your grave and summon your body to the grass.

Your crooked, prancing fingers anoint each fraying seam.

“You’re a smart girl,” you breathe through purple-tinged lips,

your highest compliment, awarded to girls who rise early, read often, bake fine puddings, and respect their mothers.

I could call you a saint, but you would not like that.

“Saints are old,” you would say. “Call me beach, in honor of the California I loved but never saw. Scrape through my sands as would a starving child. Do not worry about the pain. It is the price we all pay to be remembered.”

Your pain is the breast from which I feed, your sands the only dust to which I can return.

This poem first appeared in the poetry volume Chisel (2010).

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