J. De Nero is not from Buffalo, but some of her fondest years were spent living there. She currently resides on a tiny sub-tropical island in South Korea and is tired of living in the future. 

1 prose poem by J. De Nero

Sto lat

 


Globes hung from her earrings, from the ceiling,
they strung around each prong on the stairway banister
which led only to a giant burst shaped crater at the bottom.
Thick vines had been slinking up from the massive hole,
gnarled and pointed. They reached out towards the sea
with long tendrils and shaped themselves into flowery
boxes that bloomed with speckled gift-wrapped petals.
When touched, the blooms would spin or spit, some would
lunge and bite. There was one with tiny green coils,
much like knuckled fingers, that would unwrap the other
box flowers, peeling back each opaque leaf until they’d retract,
wrapping tighter around their packaged blossoms.


The girl lived like this for months since the flood,
pulling herself up the banister with a rope at night to go to bed,
narrowly avoiding these massive snaking limbs and otherwise
continuing on with her life in a normal fashion. There had been
many instances like this in her part of the world and the television
told her not worry, touch it, or get too close, that it wasn’t
a threat, otherwise. She wasn’t a curious girl by nature
and was fine leaving the thing alone.


There was that one Saturday afternoon, she was getting ready
for a bbq at her aunt’s house to celebrate her grandmother’s
98th birthday. What to gift someone who’s lived so long, just
a few years short of a century. Finally, while tiptoeing around
the green runners, she decided on flowers, something ephemeral
one can enjoy for a week or two, to brighten up a room, but
won’t take up too much space or create unnecessary clutter.
She glanced at the box flowers and wondered what their husks
concealed. Without too much thought, she threw on some oven
mitts, grabbed the meat scissors and snipped off one of the blooms.
It popped off with one clip and dropped to the linoleum.
The stem oozed and hissed but made no attempt to swing it’s
long arm. She bent down, scooped it up in a bowl, and headed out.


Later at Auntie’s house, Grandma was having a great time,
rocking back and forth in her lawn chair clapping along to
Uncle Chet singing and playing polka songs on his accordion.
She was surrounded by the whole family, her sons and daughters
eating ribs and macaroni salad, the nephews and cousins
trying to flip each other in the hammock. No one had seen
her this happy since before her husband Johnny died
seven years back. Grandma had lost the will to live since then.
She hardly left the house and was cursed with good health
and a loving caring family that visited and tended to her daily.
She had given up cooking and would have the grandchildren
bring her pizza or McDonalds every week on their visits.
She especially loved the seasonal stuff, the fish fillets
and McRibs. She’d have them buy three of each and freeze
what she didn’t eat to save for the next day.


Grandma would always joke and say, I wouldn’t wish my life
on Hitler! She wasn’t depressed really, she was just tired of living
and it seemed no one or nothing would kill her, so she kept on
watching her late night boxing matches, reading thick hard covers
about the Yankees, and playing cards with the grandchildren
for quarters. But on this particular day she was happy,
or at least seemed happy, to be alive, to see another family
get-together go perfectly smooth. When the girl arrived,
she carefully reached for the large stainless steel salad bowl
in the backseat of the car. The box-flower was flickering yellow
from the inside, through it’s speckled petals. The girl didn’t notice,
with the glare from the sun, and filled the bottom of the bowl up
with a water bottle she found on her backseat. A floating flower.
Perfect, she thought.


She walked up to grandma and set it on the picnic table in front of her.
Happy Birthday, Grandma! she said as she learned in for a hug.
It’s gorgeous, hunny. I’ve never seen anything like it. Is this one of them
floating flowers from Thailand or something? I’m not sure, the girl said.
It looks like a present though, doesn’t it? I mean how it’s shaped,
it looks like a wrapped up birthday gift. It does! said Grandma.
Put it here and let me get a good look at it, she said, patting
her lap and putting her beer into the chair’s mesh cup holder.


Grandma took the flower bowl into both hands and took a closer
look at the thing. It was marvelous, the shape of it, like a peach
with sharp straight edges, iridescent, the colors now swirling inside of it,
reflecting off the pool of water it floated in. Grandma peeled back
one of the petals, then another, and another, until the unmistakable
shape of a box was left in the center. She leaned over and looked
inside the box flower. Inside were golden-flecked seeds, shiny
and irresistible. Grandma picked up one of the seeds and tossed it
back into her mouth. She cracked it open with her teeth and spit out
the shell onto the lawn, like a true baseball fan. Jeter, the yorkshire
terrier ran up and smelled the shell, while Grandma scooped up
a whole handful. Again she tossed them back, sucked off the shimmer
and spat them back out, shelled, dull, and black.


It wasn’t long before it was time for cake. Everyone gathered around
Grandma and sang the typical happy birthday song. Grandma stared
at the chocolate cake that awaited cutting. She reached for the knife,
when Auntie reminded her that if Grandpa Johnny were here,
he wouldn’t let anyone near it ’til they sang Happy Birthday
in Polish too. So it went, “Sto lat! Sto lat! Niech zyje, z’je nam!”
Until it was finished, and Grandma got to cut her cake,
wishing she hadn’t been cursed to two more years
on this earth by her dead husband.
“100 years, 100 years,
May she live, live for us.”