Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

Sleeping with Nannie

Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

Sleeping with Nannie

Article excerpt

Five, too old to sleep

in my parents' room,

my bed and I move upstairs

to share my great-aunt's

square, bright space.

I love the change. Fresh

from my bath, I climb up

on her big bed. She looks up

from her game of solitaire, smiles

and shuffles the cards back

into a deck. When she snaps

off the lamp, the hot sweet night

settles over us both. Lying by

the open window, we look

across the narrow stretch of yard

between houses, straight into the bedroom

across from Nannie's. In it,

each evening, an old woman bathes

her even older mother. Wooley,

Nannie told me, their name was Wooley,

and the daughter hardly larger

than the mother. The older woman,

her thin white hair in a knot on her head,

has legs like sticks, she is withered

and brown, her breasts shriveled

bags. …

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