Holy Day of Obligation by donnarkevic

Mom drives me to the house
of the only aunt we don’t call ciocia.
I don’t know why.
Aunt Judy wears pearls, black
as burned out votive candles.

She serves cucumber sandwiches,
the bread small as Communion.
To be polite I peck at one
like a sparrow.
Aunt Judy says I eat like a sparrow.

Afterwards as Mom folds and refolds a napkin,
she tells me to go watch TV.
While the set warms, I hear about the planned divorce
from Uncle Leo, Dad’s older brother.
Mom talks through three commercials.
Then church-silence. Then Aunt Judy describes
a recipe in McCall’s for an artichoke appetizer.

Missing from the living room walls,
the children Aunt Judy never had:
Miro, Klimt, Kandinsky, Picasso,
all replaced by holes in the wall
and Hiroshima-shadow outlines of frames.
When Aunt Judy taught me to seek simplicity
in perceived complexity,
I always nodded.

Before leaving, Aunt Judy hands me a book
heavy with nineteenth and twentieth century art,
the dust jacket worn like an old penny.
When I stare at the Band-Aid tin on the coffee table,
she says, Of course. As I cup my hand
for one last time,
a slurry of silver coins.
Thank you, Ciocia Judy, I say,
her eyes sad as Our Lady of Czestochowa.

I don’t know why.