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My Old Aunts Play Canasta in a Snow Storm
Transcript of My Old Aunts Play Canasta in a Snow Storm
Marjorie Saiser I ride along in the backseat; the aunt who can drive
picks up each sister at her door, keeps the Pontiac
chugging in each driveway while one or the other
slips into her overshoes and steps out,
closing her door with a click, the wind
lifting the fringe of her white cotton scarf
as she comes down the sidewalk, still pulling on her
new polyester Christmas-stocking mittens.
We have no business to be out in such a storm,
she says, no business at all. The wind takes her voice and swirls it
like snow across the windshield.
We're on to the next house, the next aunt,
the heater blowing to beat the band.
laughing still—I'm one of the girls laughing him down the sidewalk and into his car, we're rascals sure as farmyard dogs,
we're wild card-players; the snow thickens,
the coffee boils and perks, the wind is a red trey
because, as one or the other says, I love how the poet used enjambment here. It really gives the reader the sense that wind is lifting something up or blowing something away. When I read it I have to put extra emphasis on "lifting," which mimics the action! The alliteration here ("cl" and "cl") gives me a real sense of the aunt leaving her house, moving quickly. Again, the poet uses enjambment to give the motion of snow and wind lifting up her voice before it settles...I can imagine her voice lifting up like snow. I love how this is such an ordinary story and yet the poet uses repetition and alliteration to make it sound beautiful. "Beat the band" is an idiom and it really sounds like something an old woman would say, like something the speaker overheard from her aunts. The wind seems like a theme in this poem except now it's kindof like a memory. I love that phrase "empty apple trees." At first I just loved the way it sounded but now I think it might be talking about the aunts' childhood. The imagery in these lines reminds me of my favorite book, East of Eden. I like this simile, it makes me think that the cards have taken the place of the aunts real children, now that they are old. The enjambment acts like a hiccup! I love the way the simile sounds, and also it makes me think that this is a familiar image to the girl and her aunts. They must know all about farmyard dogs from childhood and from the way she says it, it sounds like being rascals here is being fun and confident and carefree, all together in a pack. This line makes me think of when I was younger and when my mom would let me and my sister fly down alone in the winter to visit my grandma at her Florida house while my grandpa was still working in New York. We'd play triple Solitaire out on her back porch and my grandma would turn into "Crazy Grammy" and we'd scream and laugh so loud that the neighbors would come out to see what was wrong. These last lines remind me of a book I love called Emily Alone. The main character is an old woman but she still has a lot of living left to do. At the last house, we play canasta,
the deuces wild even as they were in childhood,
the wind blowing through the empty apple trees,
through the shadows of bumper crops. The cards line up under my aunts' finger bones; eights and nines and aces
straggle and fall into place like well-behaved children.
My aunts shuffle and meld; they laugh like banshees,
as they did in that other kitchen in the 30's that
day Margaret draped a dishtowel over her face
to answer the door. We put her up to it, they say,
laughing; we pushed her. The man—whoever he was—
drove off in a huff while they laughed 'til they hiccuped, We are getting up there in the years; we'll
have to quit sometime. But today,
deal, sister, deal.