There's a way a woman
            will not

her pocketbook
            even pulled
onstage, or called up

to the pulpit—
            there's a way only
your Auntie can make it

taste right—
             rice & gravy
is a meal

if my late Great Aunt
            Toota makes it—
Aunts cook like

there's no tomorrow
             & they're right.
Too hot

is how my Aunt Tuddie
            peppers everything,
her name given

by my father, four, seeing
            her smiling in her crib.
There's a barrel

full of rainwater
            beside the house
that my infant father will fall

into, trying to see
           himself—the bottom—
& there's his sister

Margie yanking him out
           by his hair grown long
as superstition. Never mind

the flyswatter they chase you
            round the house
& into the yard with

ready to whup the daylights
            out of you—
that's only a threat—

Aunties will fix you
           potato salad
& save

you some. Godmothers,
Aunts smoke like

it's going out of style—
             & it is—
make even gold

teeth look right, shining.
             saying I'll be
John, with a sigh. Make way

out of no way—
            keep they key
to the scale that weighed

the cotton, the cane
            we raised more
than our share of—

If not them, then who
           will win heaven?
holding tight

to their pocketbooks
            at the pearly gates
just in case.

—Kevin Young

Rights & Access

“Aunties” from DEAR DARKNESS: POEMS by Kevin Young, copyright © 2008 by Kevin Young.

Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC.

All rights reserved.

  • Kevin Young

    Kevin Young (1970- ) is the author of nine collections of poetry, including Book of Hours (Knopf Doubleday, 2015). In March 2017, Young was named poetry editor of The New Yorker.