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Twenty Questions

Patricia Young


At seventy-six Mum discovers she's pregnant.
No, I say, impossible. How could it happen?
She shakes her head, she doesn't know, doesn't care,
says, Don't just stand there, go get your father.
Grey myself, I remind her he's been dead eighteen years.

Go, she says again.

He's wandering the cemetery, a sack of bones I haul up the back steps.
He sits on a chair by the oil stove, belches acres of dirt,
takes his time arranging and rearranging his mostly decomposed limbs.
Well? he says. What's she selling this time?
I want to give him the facts, tell him straight up
but Mum says, No rush, let's play a guessing game.

Bigger than a breadbox? he says.
Smaller than a proverb?

No, she says. Aye.

Speak with a forked tongue?
Heal like a wound?
Batten down its hatches?

Dad smells of mulched leaves, something sweetly organic.
Pulverized beach shells spill from his eye sockets.

Sing like a goat?
Shatter like a plinth?

Mum winks at me, spreads her hands over her stomach.

Out with it, he says, I haven't got all day.

Twins, she says, and his head snaps up like a moon on a stem.

In moments they're young again.
Come away with me, she says, but he's eyeing the door.

Hold your horses, woman.
Is it like jury duty?
What are my options?
And if I say no?



Patricia Young's works copyright © to the author.


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