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. joecottonwood.com