Shawn Aveningo-Sanders
From Those Who Came Before

             I am
                           illegal gator ankle-straps
                           matching handbag
                           parading down Columbia Street
                           in the boot-heel of Missouri.

                           straw fedora, clip-on bow tie,
                           puffing on a pipe
                           filled with cherry tobacco,
                           smoke tickling the blackbirds.

             I am
                           Chipped piano keys
                           on Grandma’s upright Wurlitzer,
                           middle-C clicking
                           like her Ball jar of gallstones.

                           The grandfather
                           I never met,
                           standing tall, stoic
                           his secrets kept safe behind
                           an ailing heart that quit too soon.

             I am
                           Aunt Nadine’s
                           shoebox of poems tied with ribbon;
                           Aunt Helen’s
                           full bosom in a starched white blouse;

                           Uncle Denny’s
                           wanderlust, guilt for leaving.
                           Aunt Carol’s
                           doll hidden in a dresser drawer.

             I am
                           sarcasm and smarts,
                           his spreadsheet balancing
                           indiscretions and sensibility.

                           smudged lipstick on her teeth
                           and the strength to carry on with a smile.