She talked like a pirate, mouth askew
as if cradling a pipe to one corner while
her eye drooped on the right side,
which she would say was the wrong side now,
wishing she’d gone to the doctor before
Ramsay Hunt took over her countenance.
I told her she looked ten years younger
on the wrong side, that women paid money
to plump and soften the evidence of their lives
but she’d only laugh, squinting at me
with her right side eye behind glasses that
made her look a bit like Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Before Ramsay Hunt she’d go into her garden
not to deadhead flowers or pull up weeds
but to remember the right side life she had when
her husband was alive and the Chinese lived next door,
before the wrong side nephew moved into the basement
to be saved from a boozy life on the street.
At least that was her intention, to save him from himself
because no one on his wrong side family would,
and when she died the basement was a graveyard
of Smirnoff, Craven A’s and hardcover books
stacked up as tables that read like a Who’s Who
on the right side of literary greatness.
The house is still there, on a right side street
that used to be the wrong side of prosperity
but that’s progress for you, when the old trees
die off with the Polacks and Chinks who left
their nails in the dirt with next years’ potatoes.