portion of Lyn Lifshin's artwork

The Cousin’s Party
Lyn Lifshin

A Sunday every August my mother’s cousins
came with photographs from summers they
camped out on North Pleasant, my grand
mother making lemon meringue pie my mother
ordered in restaurants, always found wanting.
The last time I drove up, a lover’s scent
still in my hair, my lace smelling of him,

leaves tipped with red. Suddenly, the cousins
began to go, my mother couldn’t swallow.
Someone went into the hospital for something
minor but didn’t return. Kay, who loved my
poems, had fought so many parts of her being
poked at and sliced away but always made up
—with a new wig, smiling and dancing,

suddenly couldn’t go on anymore. They skipped
the party for one year while another cousin fell
and couldn’t remember his name and Kay’s husband,
always her lover, the one she talked about putting on
sexy lingerie for even while having chemo, wore
a wig to go to sleep, falls over in a day and uncles
start coughing, gasping for air they never get again.

Like birds migrating as if they got a signal, some
radar, or something in the leaves and they’re on
their way, like they did other summers, packing the
old Ford for Atlantic City, Chicago World’s Fair 1939
in Panama hats and Navy middy dresses, everyone
going, not wanting to be left behind

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