Friday 14 August 2020


by Roxanne Cardona                          

Yesterday, they set her body afire,
Nancy, my first cousin, I don’t know
what became of her ashes.     
Inseparable as teens, we shared dances
at Incarnation on St. Nicholas Avenue
sang with The Supremes till our throats
hurt, even desperate crushes on Tom Jones.

I began to notice how Nancy was unable
to read the simplest books. Double digit
addition, too tough. My mom revealed
one night about her birth. How she lost
oxygen. That Nancy would always remain
the simple girl she was at ten.
For years I pretended she didn’t exist.

At seventeen, she was hospitalized.
At her darkest, she whispered; Mommy
is the devil. She has goat’s eyes.
I grew afraid to call her, refused
her visits whenever she asked. Worse,
angry, at all the things she could never do.
She died at the residence last month.

When I learned of her death, I said,
Oh, even paused for the correct number
of seconds. News of her death, locked
up my breath. I waited for the feeling,
instead remembered her first trip
to the hospital. My father dodged kicks

from her strong legs, my mom’s voice
pleaded, and my aunt’s face bathed
in tears, slapped again and again.
I did not try to help that awful day.
I folded her memory away then
like clothes I no longer wished to wear.

Tonight, the moon hits my horizon.
Its flames frighten a robin as it pulls
out the last worm, its lids heavy
with sleep. The body indistinguishable
in the weave of root arms. The bird repeats
a refrain, familiar to me as a forgotten lyric.

* * * * *

Roxanne Cardona was born in New York City. Her work has appeared in Constellations, Red Eft, Poetic Medicine-New Voices, Door Is a Jar and elsewhere. She was a teacher and elementary school principal in the Bronx. Roxanne resides in Teaneck, NJ with her husband.


  1. Astonishing. The intensity, complexity of understanding, flashes of memory, searing imagery. The deep, deep horrible sorrow...

  2. Moving so very moving! Reminds me of people, I too have folded away in drawers like the clothes I grew tired to wear yet can't toss away because I know somewhere I'll open those drawers, hold those old clothes tightly knowing they wrapped a warm memory from my past!