She tailored our plaid
culottes, pleated skirts, spangled
formals & every year one-of-a-kind
Easter frocks with intricate
applications that required hours
of craft – ruffles at the bodice, hand
embroidering at the cuffs and collar, silk
white charmeuse inside a box
jacket. It was small
town Tennessee, she wanted us
to look good & we did, but

she was losing the pink
tinge in her cheeks. She quit
polishing her toenails Hollywood
red & donned anklets instead
of sexy Cuban-heeled
stockings. She was handing
her sparkle to her daughters. It got
worse & worse & she shut
down the sewing abruptly & at 42
signed up for college. Her light
left on after we went
down for the night

while she wrote about Dickens,
Shakespeare, Emerson. She’d pull
all-nighters, refusing less than
an A’s. When I was 16
she started to sip Jack Daniels
& Coke when she suspected
we were down for the night she’d
drink more & more. She graduated –
magna cum laude – taught 7th
grade. So respectable,
but the search for beauty
& knowledge & the drive
to create ended. She slipped
into a slow indifference without
frill or written insight, one
wretched highball at a time.