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Family Portrait




We are a family of impromptu surgeries
on coffee tables and in crowded kitchens. 
We’re a family of cootie inspections,
of weeks of washing sheets every day, 
brushes thrown away, hair
cut finally short. 
We are a family of permanent clothes items—
nightgowns passed from granddaughter to granddaughter, 
The Little Mermaid with pilled purple sleeves always in vogue.
There is always an extra bathing suit. 
We are a family of Crisco and paper towels,
cooling grease in a Maxwell House can; 
the grind of a running dishwasher is
the only sign you’ve missed the party. 
We hold wakes with the still-dying, pile in bed,
jostle painful bones, recall stories we remember 
the details of, but not the main character.
Who ate the stick of butter, who ate the candle wax? 
Which Scottish terrier’s tail did we sew on with thread?
We are a family of dirt, of doghouse, of wills 
frequently changed. We do not forget
what you did in high school. 
We dig with tablespoons in the garden
for worms to sacrifice for no fish. 
There is always half a lemon in the refrigerator door.
There is usually extra flea medicine or a heartworm pill. 
There are always extra Christmas presents.
How many marshmallows cover our holiday yams? 
How many pairs of scissors has grandma lost,
‘hiding’ them from the grandchildren? 
We stand in the yard and search the canal for gators,
hold our small dogs. We blow high-pitched noises 
with blades of grass. We get sand in our bathing suits
and then it stays in the tub for days. We get sunburned 
and swimmer’s ear, though we are a family
of religious sunscreen use. When one of us is mad, 
she keeps calling to remind us, gives generous
opportunities for apology. We own  
the fancy rotating Scrabble board
and the entire Jaws series. In fact, we own most movies 
involving man-eating sharks.
We watch Sixty Minutes with big bowls of ice cream,
smelling of chlorine. We sometimes go crazy 
but we do not kill ourselves; instead, we spend money
on strange things, sleep a lot. 
We let the kids watch R-rated movies,
cover their eyes during the sex scenes. 
We throw parties and run the blender,
stay in the pool until our toes peel. 
We sing through the phone on birthdays.
We make things grow. If they die, we bury them at sea.


Keverlee Burchett earned her M.F.A. in Creative Writing—Poetry from Purdue University. She has taught writing courses at College of Charleston and the Art Institute of Charleston and directed the Lowcountry Initiative for the Literary Arts (LILA) Poets in the Schools program. Recent work has been published or is forthcoming in Southeast Review, Superstition Review, burntdistrict,  American Poetry Journal, and Southern Humanities Review. She lives in Asheville, North Carolina.



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