The Offering

I imagine her sitting, palm over palm, on a train
Or maybe a bus,
The caveat of her mother, that insinuating decree,
Echoing distantly behind the rhythmic turning of wheels.
She arrives in a neat but unfamiliar town: Hartford,
Or maybe New Haven,
Clasping a single suitcase, in it a toothbrush, a hairbrush,
And a black dress that falls, properly, just below her knees.
I imagine the air holds traces of green warmth,
Or maybe winter's bite holds,
And she keeps her arms close to her sides, for she knows
She will not be welcomed by the dead boy's family.
She has been sent as a representative,
Or maybe this is punishment,
Which is what my mother tells me
Only once, when I am eighteen and "old enough."
I imagine the tears that burn her tired eyes,
Or maybe those are my own that blot the page,
As the dead boy's uncle whips his barbed tongue,
Ripping open an accusation like the nails that rip her palms.
My aunt is only seventeen when her brother dies
Alongside the boy this family mourns.
I wonder if she felt "old enough" for her crucifixion,
Old enough to play the sorrowed black starling.
I do not ask questions,
But spend a lifetime listening.

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