ronnie picks rose petals
and eats them, chews the pink yellow
in his cigarette teeth. his sister, peggy,
asks how they taste, and he says, "good,
like whimsy and perfume," and picks three petals
fat with pigment and water; she tastes the first
and likes the second and the third is the sweet on her tongue
when ronnie dies of liver failure. she eats the reddest
blooms on his casket.
if tommy were a girl and jenny
a boy, the children would be perfect:
tommy with impish nose and nymph hands,
jenny rumbling with the rooneys from new city,
and mother frets for both their blond[e] heads.
peggy buys the twins paletas, and ronnie
stays with grandpa, most days. he comes home
and tells jenny they're blackfoot: she could have
been a warrior woman, and tommy a medicine man,
and mother wouldn't fret when tommy kissed jason.
ronnie is sixteen and thin.
willy is the youngest boy and clings to skirts,
plays with dolls because eva smothered him. tommy
pushes him down the stairs when jenny will call him faggot
if he doesn't; willy cries until his eyes look like cracked eggs
and tommy takes him outside to play beneath the fire escape.
they toke, fingers shaking because mother might smell
from her incessantly open window, but she smells delinquents
and yells names that aren't her children's.
"tommy, my head feels funny."
"yeah. that's the good part."
eva lives with her husband and visits
because mother is overwhelmed; eva
looks like austria, eva speaks her mother's severe,
eva was the beauty queen and tells peggy she looks
pretty when she braids her hair. "we're lakota, you know,
from our father's side. he was a war hero."
"we're blackfoot." peggy smooths eva's bleached hair with oil.
"ronnie says we're blackfoot."
"ronnie's a moron." but ronnie talks to grandpa,
and eva leaves when evening falls.
tommy overdoses; peggy sold him his first hit,
and jenny married a rooney. eva attended the wedding
but only held their first son. the other two were square
like ronnie in manhood: ruddy-faced and stout, grounded.
willy is sixteen and thin.
jason stands at ronnie's funeral, watching
peggy nibble and sob. he touches her shoulders
and she looks at him. "you came?"
"tommy was close to him."
"i know he was. everyone was close
to ronnie, and i'm sorry about tommy,
i'm sorry i didn't come. i'm sorry eva didn't
come. i'm sorry jenny came but with rooney
slurring his thick tongue and beat sons;
i'm sorry, i'm sorry for pollen and florists
and germination and dead flowers. i'm sorry
you loved him, and i'm sorry. i'm sorry."
she quivers in sallow skin, chewing.