in Prague and Saxony and New York City
and Cripple Creek Colorado where
her vagabond father once owned
a department store with the only
elevator in the West. She neither
spent a day in college nor owned
a pair of jeans in her life, yet
kept up with her klutzy teenage chum
until Ruthy needed nursing at ninety-two.
Billybird sashayed through symphonies
and art museums and golfed and brunched
at the county club when she wasn’t
photographing the globe with my uncle
who died from an illness contracted in Bali.
Twice a year she flew from Cincinnati
to Westchester to celebrate her birthday
and Ruthy’s birthday, too. At sixty
Billybird started lessons from
a splendidly bearded homegrown sculptor,
hammering and chiseling rocks to find an owl
or a nude inside, sharing a musty
cellar studio with bare lightbulbs and mice
and younger friendly neighborhood artists.
My proper aunt stopped driving at ninety six
and pounding two years later, after finishing
her masterpiece of coral alabaster
iridescent fingers reaching the sky.
For her hundredth birthday she staged
a cowboy costume affair and dressed like a
Grandma Wild West Barbie doll,
holding a microphone to lead us in
old show tunes, a champagne glass
in her other hand shaped like
the perfect lady that she always was;
Westchester Ruthy too weak to attend.
Billybird never needed eyeglasses
as she viewed her rosy century,
dying with a smile at one-o-one.
Turtle solid bedridden Ruthy sustained
two lonely New York years farther out.
"Let's Give the Lady a Hand"
Jim Fuess, http://www.jimfuessart.com/