PEARLS BEFORE SWINE
If it happened to be summer,
she went around slamming windows
to keep the neighbors from hearing
her berate, at the full capacity
of her well-trained voice, her young
toothpick-limbed children, my brother
and me, who gave excellent impressions
of people suffering from starvation,
but who, in reality, had simply burned
our calories in adrenaline rushes
and nervous fidgets, biting the lining
of our cheeks and twisting clumps
of our hair – or my brother’s specialty –
a tic of the neck and chin, as if
wearing a necktie noosed too tightly.
Once the window sashes stopped
reverberating, she lit
into her “ungrateful wretches” for whom
she “worked her fingers to the bone,”
casting her “pearls before swine.”
And what thanks did she get?
Not so much as a “well done
my good and faithful servant.”
If we thought childhood was meant to be
“one grand and glorious good time,”
we had another thought coming.
When the storm of her high holy furor
had passed, she rushed forward,
her spirits pirouetting on a dime,
to embrace us in her ample body,
declaring us “Mama’s darling angels,”
“best children who ever trod the earth.”
And so it was, amid one woman’s flair
for alliteration and biblical paraphrasing,
we received our sentimental education.
The big red door is licked back so the flies come
and go as they please. The peach of a sun
has unplucked itself onto the backside of a tree
and dangles by a bungee cord stem. Twilight
gushes in, a cross between gooey and billowy,
heads less than straight up the stairs, expands
into the bedroom, spreads itself over the furniture,
then turns to me.
It curls along my limbs and face, showing the courtesy
to leave a little breathing space around my nostrils. I rest
against its bulbous volume. Together we allow the evening
to serenade us –
a jumbo jet booming a little something from Götterdämmerung
as it dives its charges home before dark, the brutal upswing
of a floored car, a bus’s asthmatic wheeze,
the barking of summer children –
woven together by an obbligato of finches and sparrows, robins and jays.
How do the birds keep it up in the ears of all this noise?
My guess is they’ve mustered their competitive spirits and cranked up
the volume – double forté and twice the number of instruments.
Twilight is overstaying its welcome here in my north country city.
It and I grow weary of one another. Finally we give up and settle down
on the floor together. In the soft, dank carpet,
we caress, make a little love.
Lillo Way's poems have appeared or are forthcoming in New Orleans Review, Poet Lore, Tampa Review, Tar River Poetry, Madison Review, The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, Poetry East, Yemassee, Santa Fe Literary Review, among others. Seven of Way's poems are included in anthologies. Her full-length manuscript, “Wingbone,” was a finalist for the 2015 Barry Spacks Poetry Prize from Gunpowder Press.