Alexanders and Scotts, a Bramble
John M. Anderson
The briar pattern of this carpet, blown
up by all-fours inspection, clarified
like stars through the side of the eye: my mother
rambled down such stairs, the Scottish highlands
of Aunt Alice’s house in the Ozarks, playing mouse
with her first cousins, James and Leroy, her
mystery lovers. Banging palms on those yielding
thorns, Errol Flynn raids while the clock
clucked its long tongue at their antics
and the tall window in the attic ran
leaded rain. A stained Tennysonian tone
over all, though the depression was on,
a War of Roses formality of plan and motif
of swept stone: The kitchen where the mice scrabbled
slabs of hard-crust bread into their milk teeth
and bubbling scared giggles turned
to ascend the long bluffs of stairs. Leroy
my mother loved, who grew into the youth
with hawk on hand in the Scotch-Guard
tapestry the wind blew. Drafted, he slipped
from his coon hounds, threw
a kiss from the bus. Cut
through a Korean minefield and went sky high.
My father, his commanding officer, arrived
not long after the news. Not a prince,
never a replacement. More than cousins—she winces—
they might have been twins.

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