—from Bellingrath Gardens
Dear Mother, Edith got hold of a horoscope—our guide distributed them, to shake things up—and now there is no stopping her. Never mind the lovely stone steps curving through cascades of flame azaleas, never mind the ivy scaling the cypress, never mind the mermaid fountain quietly splashing in its calm little pool. Now Edith is a bit too interested in her lucky number, counting the mourning doves in the cedar, the pennies handed back to her (noting whether bright or dull), each fallen lily along our path. She feels soon she will have absolute proof—and I disagree—that “important people are watching” and “unexpected directions could reveal hidden treasure.” Even our stoic bus driver raised his eyebrows after she gave him a crumpled camellia she pulled from her purse.
—from Rochester Memorial Hospital
Dear Mother, Edith does not want me to say exactly what happened. As usual, she has put me in a difficult position. Witnesses agreed our guide acted heroically. There was little blood and no permanent stains. While our stay here is considered a precaution, Edith is determined to miss nothing: she made the nurses reposition her bed toward the window. (It overlooks the parking lot.) You will receive reimbursement for the three days of touring we have missed. We are receiving excellent care, though the nurses’ attention borders on fanatical. Already today one has changed my sheets, washed my hair, and delivered a small bouquet of violets. They bring us menus three times a day and though the choice is limited, we are allowed to select what most pleases us. Edith has grown partial to the tapioca pudding, which arrives in a glass like a little parfait.
—from the Place du Palais, Monaco
Dear Mother, today was an overturned rowboat, purposely left on shore. Today was a blister on my big toe. Today was a dropped coin that rolled between the table and the wall at the cafe, out of reach. Today was the skinny stray cat, limping, with mottled fur and dull eyes, that we both pretended to ignore. Edith was the sudden downpour and I had no umbrella. I was the cloudless sky afterward, washed clean.
Kathleen McGookey has published four books of prose poems and three chapbooks, most recently Instructions for My Imposter (Press 53) and Nineteen Letters (BatCat Press). She has also published We’ll See, a book of translations of French poet Georges Godeau’s prose poems. Her work has appeared in Copper Nickel, Crazyhorse, December, Field, Glassworks, Miramar, Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, Quiddity, and Sweet. She has received grants from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Sustainable Arts Foundation.