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Southern Hospitality

Two feet, matched white plumes, rest
on the jewel case velvet of a footstool;
like the decor, dress, and ice cream you preferred,
your desserts and furnishings were rose-colored.
While the downtown stores held moving sales,
reincarnating in suburbs with utopian names,
you in your inner city (six stories of
apartments for the genteel old),
served trays of chicken salad beneath the ceiling fan,
cleared, and winking, “Everything must go,”
set down two scoops of peppermint for each,
in Empress Eugenie’s pink cut-glass bowls.
The ice-cream melted like the afternoon,
like ideologies and cotton wealth,
and you told stories of your gray-eyed mother,
A German Jew who crossed in ‘fifty-eight,
emigrating from pogroms to the War Between the States.
Sixteen and alone, red braids intricate around her head,
eventually the vowels of the Yiddish prayers she spoke
slept in a Southern accent like a featherbed.

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