My Aunt’s Angels
They knock on cupboards & ribs,
steal mothballs from the wardrobe’s dim corners
& patch them into their wings.
They scream when the kettle boils.
Their feet & fingers are webbed like geese.
Some bake bran muffins in blue children’s aprons.
The kitchen, powdered in bread flour, a cloud they glide through.
Others wrestle the wind through a screen door.
When the doorbell rings, they flap their arms & chirp
their mockingbird throats.
They work in shifts, all night shining shoes.
All morning they brush her hair.
Some are secretive & break the chimes, so she won’t
know their comings & goings.
Others dissect the basement mice & pin
the decorative bodies, splayed like fans, to the walls.
Their laughter rakes like tires screeching through a stop.
She begs them to stop but they only start a game
of tar & feathers.
She opens the door to leave, but more trudge in
ferrying beer bottles & shoehorns, tiny mouse bones dangling
from their teeth.
Some plant violets in the garden then wash their feet
so the dirt won’t track in. Or so the violets won’t grow
inside. Some rock her to bed & call her baby;
others roll their doll eyes & bite her fingernails to shards as she sleeps.
She once woke to a fistful of blood & feathers, believing
it a tiny bird she’d crushed in sleep.
Tomorrow, she will take a pill & they will leave in a mournful parade:
When angels leave us, they look like lost children.
She will spend all day counting their shadows like stitches
& washing that dead bird from her fingers’ webs.
Copyright © Natalie Rose Richardson. This poem originally appeared in Respect the Mic: Celebrating 20 Years of Poetry from a Chicagoland High School (Penguin, 2022). Used with permission of the author.