Strange Family

On Friday nights Bubby drags three over-stuffed chairs
like they were sacks of grain or sand
across the balding green carpet;
she serves supper on Deputy Dawg
and Yogi Bear folding tray tables.

This strange family, an elderly man and woman,
tiny as sparrows, and an oversized girl
watch Star Trek reruns followed by Dance Fever.
For once Bubby sits while they eat, though the girl
can never remember fork or bread or any food
at all moving to the old woman’s lips. She can’t
picture the old woman swallowing anything
except tiny glasses of sweet liqueur
from a back kitchen cupboard, and that only rarely.

Perhaps the girl is lost in Kirk or Spock,
both of whom she wants to marry.
Or perhaps she only wants to be them,
to dissolve in electric pinpricks,
ride to Heaven with a wink and a raised eyebrow,
this girl who already grunts when lifting herself
from the chair, who lately feels her body
moving five steps behind her shadow.

At Dance Fever they all try to guess the winning pain
The girl always chooses those that spin highest
and hardest, the man who tosses his sparkly partner
into the sky as she were a handkerchief, the woman
pirouetting up there impossibly long before
landing with a hush in her partner’s arms.
Every week the girl chooses wrong,
her Bubby and Zaidy right every time.
They understand subtlety, the softest turn of ankle
and waist, they understand the moments
between the movements. They know quiet
is not despair. They know how to wait.

Laura Bernstein is a poet in Detroit, Michigan.