La Nuit Américaine

Michael Hofmann

Her mother was her father’s senior by
something like twenty years; a difference
she was proud of. Most recently she was tall,
shapely, and engaged to her date at home,
though still our age and not yet twenty.
A shimmering girl with polished nails and
a soft creamy face, who washed her white
blonde hair with pink strawberry shampoo.
When she was little, her hair caught fire
and her older sister poured water over her.
After that it was short for a while.
There is a photo of her with my sister,
both in pyjamas with powdered faces long
past bedtime, leaning against the radiator
like geisha girls. One afternoon after school
we watched a voodoo movie at her house
and I had bad dreams for months afterwards.

(My teenage father kept opening the door to a bad-tempered old woman with an axe.)