Hard of Hearing

Douglas Oliver

When the painter died the people
in her painting stiffened a little in their oils:
my sister’s two friends from art school,
dressing in her bedroom.
An oval mirror caught in the arms
of a pink rattan chair
reflects Mona’s bed too high
slanting down from an unstable wall
in the uneasy Browning Avenue house.
Her visitors peer intensely
when I ask if they want breakfast,
seeing my childhood from the angle
of rounded womanhood as if
that made them hard of hearing. One
mysteriously fastens her dressing gown,
a towel caught up in the arms of the other
to dry her neck. I’d like to say to them,
it’s always been all right since that morning;
though Mona’s away from us now, it’s all right.