In my house girls got the best · Joe Cottonwood

so Karina my older sister
and Grandma Kate got the two good bedrooms
while Dad slept upstairs
and I got the pantry closet next to the kitchen
with a window over the garbage cans.

I would play with Karina.
She invented the best games,
used the best words.
When I was ten, she was twelve,
I’d say Golly.
She’d say Be dynamic.
I’d say Mickey likes Minnie.
Karina would say Mickey’s entire existence
pivots on the dimple of Minnie’s smile

I’m 72, Karina is 74 and nutty as a woodpecker.
She visits each Christmas, brings gifts of
homemade persimmon bread, plum jam.
On her meds she’s bland like a rag doll.
Off, this Christmas she tells me
Dad was the father of my cousin.
Dad murdered Mom.
I say Golly.

Karina has a house worth millions
in a neighborhood turned trendy,
lives alone with cats, a great big bedroom
floor covered in stacks of books mags newspapers.
I live in a cottage in the woods but okay.
I’m the boy.

Joe Cottonwood has built or repaired hundreds of houses to support his writing habit. His latest book is Foggy Dog: Poems of the Pacific Coast. He’s a pretty good carpenter and a crackerjack grandfather in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California.