Fairy Great Aunties

by Vogue Robinson

Sleeping Beauty had three fairy godmothers
Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather
They gave her the gifts of beauty, song, and slumber
When I was born, God gave me three roses instead
Great Aunties - Lily, Dorothy, and Juanita

Women uprooted and forced to blend
and thrive in unfamiliar California soil
I thought they were mine to keep
 
But they were just roses
Each one an apology
for my mistake of a mother
 
A woman whose heartbeat pounded
as loud as her fists
Anger, always sizzling
in a pot of overcooked pasta
Dependence in her medicine cabinet
Addiction in her diet
Fire in her throat
Hands made of granite
She lacked a green thumb
But my Great Aunties were sown
by a Kansas farmer and they grew

Aunt Lily grew a 50-year marriage with her husband, Pastor Coles
They harvested a church family, but never a sapling of their own
 
When Aunt Lily died
Church of God in Christ in Los Angeles
was filled to brim with blue roses
mourning the loss of sweet Sister Lily
volunteer, pastor’s wife, piano teacher —
the woman who stopped going to dialysis
after her husband passed

For almost ten years, my sister kept a rose
from that funeral in her bedroom
 
I remember Aunt Lily’s gift of song
slender fingers too arthritic to teach me the piano
But she taught me love has a lifespan immeasurable
 
Aunt Dorothy’s front yard had ants crawling
in wild honeysuckle buds

She found herself a hand-me-down son
to help her plant citrus trees whose pollen
danced together to create new nectar
 
When Aunt Dorothy died
I watched my Gramma bawl
reach into the open casket,
grab her arm and screech,
“Dorothy, I tried to call you, I tried to call you!”
 
I remember Aunt Dorothy’s gift of gardening
she taught me that love can blossom anywhere
 
Aunt Juanita, the youngest, planted an entire garden
of sons and daughters
She grew our strongest dandelions
 
Two weeks after Aunt Juanita died
I found a dead ladybug
I buried her in soft soil
under a California pepper tree
said a prayer and let my last Aunt go
 
I remember Aunt Juanita’s gift of patience
she taught me how love is full of forgiveness
 
These women taught me more about death
than the living ever could
About how your body becomes carcass
cousins become vultures
Your belongings
become the cause
of a civil war of paperwork, insults, and pain
 
I remember their deaths and funerals
better than their lives
I am trying to stop wishing for fairy great aunties
I know these women weren’t myths, they lived
like uprooted plants
I watched them wither and wilt over time
 
It’s fitting, I found a husband
who doesn’t believe in buying flowers
When I decided to buy myself a rose
I paid a woman to sew a string of memories
into my forearm with an electric needle
so my Great Aunties are remembered
as beautiful, brilliant, alive
even after...

Previously published in Double Down, the Nevada Humanities blog
Post Date: Thursday, August 16, 2018

© 2019 Helen: a literary magazine