An animal on an Edo scroll
looks to me like a cat. An expert says it’s a tiger;
Deon calls it a dog. His twin
curls her lip, says anyone can see
it’s a bear, stupid. Their mom
of course steps in with “Don’t call people ‘stupid.’”
Daya plants her hands on her hips, replying,
“Sometimes people are.” Her name means
sympathy or compassion in Sanskrit
and holy wow is she ruthless. I’m glad
I’m merely an aunt—and not a “real” aunt—
just the old friend who drags them to museums
so mom—Diana—can remember what it’s like
to sit with a fancy coffee drink
after visiting pictures inside frames and cases.
Today by the time we reach the café,
the conversation’s ancient history. Deon and Daya
race to the lawn with their popsicles,
giddily squabbling over whose tongue
looks more like their chow’s when it’s blue.
Diana hovers over the lotus
drawn on her latte, not quite ready
to be its destroyer, even though it
was never made to last
for longer than a glance. I think about
the creature on the scroll: so big, so furry,
and such a sweet face, a half-naked monk
gazing into its eyes as if it could understand.
Peg Duthie is the author of Measured Extravagance (Upper Rubber Boot, 2012). Her poems have appeared in Rattle and Autumn Sky Poetry Daily, at the CDC Poetry Project and the Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, and elsewhere.