In a printed rayon dress,
her white hair curled like a rare flower mum
my neighbor was as fresh as a portrait pose.
Mrs. West moved her well-worn bones
nimbly and boldly, helping Mr. West
who was a growing shadow in the background.
Their place hung proudly and
in a corner were her easel and oils.
Silver napkin rings and china –
I’d been invited to dinner!
Outside a crossfire of cusswords surged
but inside conversation flowed,
not about her friends who owned a town
or how she turned pennies to dollars,
but about me, making me feel
as though I were wearing satin toe shoes.
My family moved. My new friends and I
talked boys and curfews.
I’m sure Mrs. West went on gracing canvases
until she became stiff as a used brush.
Now when rain falls I believe Mrs. West
is shaking crumbs from cloudy napkins,
standing on the high table,
painting a mural of her life before I knew her.
Denise Utt is a New York poet who has published poetry in Confrontation, the Evansville Review, La Gradiva and the Tribeca Poetry Review.