Aunt Madelyn At The White Sale

By Alice Fulton b. 1952 Alice Fulton
Here is the kingdom of irregulars,
land of no-two-alike,
I hunt furiously
useful towels. Closets simmering with
terry, linen, beach or tea
can never be full
enough to stop these sprees.

Hoarding is relative
to love or fear, but not to need. Mother stockpiled
soap in step-on cans.
When the lid snapped back,
instead of grinds, grease, skins, it was good
to get a whiff
of the bars, neat and brightly wrapped as gifts.

Waving us off on dates, she'd yell "Be back by twelve
and don't come home
if you get killed." But I wasn't killed,
easy as that seemed. I hadn't figured on
life's pigheadedness:
how the breath and pulse are triggered by a hardwon
inability to unexist. How death is

tightfisted. I thought
at first there'd been a car crash: my voice soared, brilliant
and bubbling with drugs: oh, that that too too
stutter should be mine!
Then, with a coziness worse than constraint, they
spoke of the cerebral pinch I'd been in, praised

the luck that chucked me
back to sanitized light. Where towels absorb their weight
in chaos. Where I am serene.
Like those damn orchids—
vivid, blizzardy sprays Tom and I trucked
out West that time, and, one by one, heat or dark
got them: my brainwaves.

The last was that dendrobium...or is
that my medication? See? Last week I went
and rang the wrong bell
after twenty-odd years of visiting
my beaming, well-meaning sister.
I worry now
about another sister who manages neither

smiles nor meaning. Those years I coaxed her through
treatments, hoping—
if not for her thanks or love, then what?
Nothing...but the nothing I've received
has me shuddering.
Rage makes my blood astringent as witch hazel.
I'll pretend not to see them pretend not to

see my infirmities:
My restless hands. Idling. Pilling the spread.
Of course, you can get killed at home and that's something
Mother never mentioned. My mind drifts
to my friend Miriam, that deadly fire—I see again
her pleasant, stocky face. "Mada, we're sharp
as ever," she said last time,

but she was fooled. With luck she slept right through.
Outside snowflakes lift, float sideways, and seem
to say "ground has nothing
to do with me!" But this is silly.
Though I can't trace one among the calm bustle
of shoppers, I tell myself
they are falling, they do touch earth, and they

never rise at all.

"Aunt Madelyn At The White Sale" from Palladium: Poems. Copyright © 1987 by Alice Fulton. Used with permission of the poet and the University of Illinois Press.

Source: Palladium: Poems (University of Illinois Press, 1987)

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Poet Alice Fulton b. 1952

Subjects Family & Ancestors, Health & Illness, Relationships, Living, Death

Poetic Terms Confessional, Persona

 Alice  Fulton


Poet and writer Alice Fulton was born in 1952 and raised in Troy, New York. She earned a BA at Empire State College and an MFA from Cornell University. She is the author of numerous books of poetry, including Dance Script with Electric Ballerina (1982), which won an Associated Writing Programs Award; Palladium (1986), winner of the National Poetry Series; Powers of Congress (1990; reissued 2001); Sensual Math (1995); Felt: Poems . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Family & Ancestors, Health & Illness, Relationships, Living, Death

Poetic Terms Confessional, Persona

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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