Snapshot With Suet


Say, has anyone found the old lorgnettes, those folding opera glasses?

Nice keepsake my musical sisters agree, sorting our dead Mother’s things.

Vissi d’arte, Vissi d’amore they yodel from Tosca.

On to the photographs, my favorite, 3 x 5 b/w, over-exposed edges on fire:

Flyway birds fill the trees, snip buds, litter ground with cuneiform. Late storm, no school. Hurry, we’re losing light, yells urgent brother Michael. I labor in webbed snowshoes, reach for boxes hung in rows above my girly feeder, a high-heeled boot laced with fat, table scraps. Suet for juncos calls Dad, leading pregnant Mom sidesaddle on our snow camel, three humps. Why not? Falling off unhurt, the little sisters, squint, point, hurl wet snowballs at hooded  


No, Grandma and Aunt R in capes, ambushed states our kid brother. See pointing at me, the fat teen Thunder Thighs lumbering across the frame.

I remind him that, inside Mother on the camel, he was not yet born, alive.

Big diff. The huge snow humps, chameleons he insists despite cloven hooves and cud. Who’s that? he asks about the agile boy in yarn hat, trailing seed from sack up frozen hill.

Not you I quip, suddenly too sad to dwell on Michael, his kindness and early death.

So where’s Dad?

There leaning in his deep great-coat, holding up the coffee can of suet while little sisters trip in snow pants, hand-me-downs one size too big.

Those two, now mothers both, still giggle, chorus. Fighting, we fell off the sleigh. The tracks, two thin lines, see they say lower left. Beaded caps stiff with snow, we brushed off our collars, hollered Wait!

But cold, you big kids and the parents lost interest in the game.

Of what?

What else? War, no, Peace. The sisters trump each other, interrupt. We were twin serfs, no, Serbian princesses kidnapped along the Hindi Kush, our camel caravan of sequins and silk high-jacked by hooded bandits.

Musquediento, your Highnesses! We greet in accented Flodge, our secret childhood lingo, curtsy, bow, dodge — all of us laughing now, ready to sit down and relax, napkins in lap, with tea-cakes and whiskey chasers. 

Hail, hail we toast the slanted blur.

Tall Dad?

Or giant windfall? Michael’s climbing tree, the ironwood downed by storm, nailed coffee can flattened on one side for suet.

Say, when did juncos last winter here?

I bite my lip — Michael’s eighth-grade feeders, off-camera memories. Mine.



Morning Scrabble


At my brother Michael’s gravesite, others toss handfuls of earth, stones, flowers. I throw small wooden squares with letters, stuffed in my purse and pockets, pieces from his favorite childhood board game — winning words, our excuse for wagers.

Before they dump out drawers at home, let’s see what’s left to play: O B T X R U D Z E S C H I F N A T M A …W. WOMBAT, RATFINK, tags for schoolyard FOES. FAUX, FINCH, short DEFT words like ZED and UR earned quick points. Easy vocab, RUDE, RAIN, SHINE, AFTER, we learned, ate money vowels that better earned their keep in CRUDE, INTRUDE, SHINER, SHAFTED, RAFTER.

For final rounds, our house rules allowed TV, DC, RSVP, abbreviations used as words, also REV (Reverend), RIP (Rest in Peace), even B (Born). No one ever dared to score with D, not even rash Michael, too soon wed to older ex-nun ATAR with STUN gun agenda for success.

Forced ROSE, our ruddy brother skipped FRAT fun, shortcut youth to TUX and BOURSE with her, TRIM in black FACE veil beside his casket — me FAT, DAFT, BORE/BOAR larded with loss, SNIFfling in the nave, WORSE, wanting to RUN like stocking, grasp threads, hasp, catch breath, barge, take charge — my own worst FOE in durable WORSTED serge, suited dirge, first word of MATINS (old Latin office), Dirige, direct us O Lord — gloss at his morning grave, high-point words I lack for grief.




Charlotte M. Porter  lives in an old citrus hamlet in north central Florida. A published poet, she was a top finalist for the Rose Metal Press flash fiction chapbook contest in 2012. Her creative nonfiction, as Wanda Legend, has been cited by New Pages.

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