Shorty – Wendy Klein

Shorty

Aunt Paula wore the highest stilettos she could buy,
would risk a broken neck to look as tall

as her sister, Lee. Aunt Paula piled her meagre black hair
into a chignon the size of a giant cep, her face

the shape of a wizened heart from living on black tea
and Pall Malls, ate little but half-raw meat,

hard-boiled eggs, grapefruit. Aunt Paula exercised each day
by vacuuming her house from top to bottom,

accompanied by her blind Cairn terrier, Shorty, who’d bitten
everyone but Grandmother. Aunt Paula dug her garden

with manic intensity, planted baby-tears moss between
the blocks of crazy paving she’d put in place

with her own green fingers. Nights, her foot pressed
down the damper of the second-hand upright

as she fought insomnia with Civil War Songs:
When Johnny comes marching home again.

She slipped away through the screen door at 45 – lean
as wire, will o’ the wisp. Her heart, they said.

Wendy Klein has 3 collections: ‘Cuba in the Blood’ and ‘Anything in Turquoise’ (2009, 20013, Cinnamon Press), ‘Mood Indigo’ ( 2016, Oversteps), and a selected ‘Into the Blue’, High Window Press (2019).  An illustrated film of her recent pamphlet, ‘Let Battle Commence’ appears on You-tube https://youtu.be/L2JlbpAdUcU

Playing Cards with Vicky’s Dad – Wendy Klein

Playing Cards with Vicky’s Dad

Rolly Rolicheck came from a place so strange
that my friend Vicky, his own little girl,

could not pronounce it. His cheekbones were high
in his puffy face, pressing his eyes

into narrow green slits like pistachio nuts half-split.
Dodie, his wife, worked at the soda fountain

in the bus depot, her great breasts just the right height
to rest on the counter as she drew us ice cold cokes

on our way home from school, her pink tongue flicking
a flake of tobacco stuck in her fuchsia lipstick —

bottom lip, Pall Malls — unfiltered. But it was Rolly,
home from work early, who welcomed us

onto his big lap, both of us at once, taking out
his special playing cards

that showed us coloured photos about what men
and women did with their clothes off.

Wrapped tight in his hairy arms, we would giggle. Folks said
Dodie Rolicheck was a tart, pitied poor old Rolly,

but when they disappeared that last summer,
I missed my friend, Vicky.

Wendy Klein has 3 collections: ‘Cuba in the Blood’ and ‘Anything in Turquoise’ (2009, 20013, Cinnamon Press), ‘Mood Indigo’ ( 2016, Oversteps), and a selected ‘Into the Blue’, High Window Press (2019).  An illustrated film of her recent pamphlet, ‘Let Battle Commence’ appears on You-tube https://youtu.be/L2JlbpAdUcU