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                                    Elizabeth W. Jackson

We’re drinking coffee at the shop on Grove
when my aunt’s DNA starts to rumble. Nerves
shake to the surface, shear waves ripple

her cheeks. Her eyes tremble,
and she waits. Quaking over the precipice,
I buckle under memories—a childhood spent

washing my hands then checking, over and over
through the night. I clutch my cup against tremors,
feel its heat, solid and slick. She says

the meds are working,
and I look into the black chasm
of my mug. Maybe you won’t

need     won’t need
she says. Maybe you’ll be
fine   fine    be fine. 

She blinks hard and fast like a child
trying to remember what
she already knows, and she starts

the stories again. Suicides. Rages:
my grandmother hurling blue Delft
at my mother’s head, ceramic raining

from the wall. One by one,
portraits tumble. The faces
fall. Paint pops, and the gilt

frames crack. I grapple with their weight
and try to rehang them, to square
splayed corners with the edges

of my mind. We walk to my car in silence,
and with door open, she leans in to say goodbye. 
Remember, we’re survivors.

And swinging it shut, she clips the frame
of her oversized glasses. They flip
from her nose, dangle from one ear.
She stares straight ahead.

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