Kings and Queens
Courtney Lee

Michael Jackson is dead!

I see my mother shake her head,

and her mother chop another onion,

and her mother talk to the television,

And Farrah Fawcett too,

no telling who’s next.

It is summertime in Florida

which means orchids on the table

and tea in ice clinking glass and

heat flashes on asphalt cul-de-sac

where I run barefoot to dinner.

            You best watch where you going, girl,

            ‘specially in my kitchen.

I get to sit at the grown-up table because I am of age,

my weight creaking the wicker chair, beside me,

a rim of crystal glass smudged with the blood

red of an old woman’s lipstick, still wet.

My mothers invite me to ladies’ Yahtzee night,

            That is, if you ‘gree to set the game.

I find the family treasures, worn and quiet,

tucked under the dusty covers of a cardboard box—

green felt and rawhide cup and soft edged dice—

and I hold them as I’ve seen my mother do before.

            He, too, was some mother’s child.

Me, my mother, her mother, and her mother,

four generations tallying two hundred fifteen years,

six dice tallying thirty-six, one man in the mirror

tallying fifty.

            Those dice ain’t gon’ roll theyselves out.

            An’ blow on ‘em for good luck, you hear?

I watch their hands tapping felt, shaking cup,

and keeping score to the rhythm of the radio.

Hands that knew where to go and what to do,

wrinkled leathery hands, skin of elephant, hands

that once fed me, bathed me.

            YAHTZEE I got Yahtzee!

Our eldest mother beams from her throne,

thrusting a cane, her scepter, in victory. The dead

king serenades us. It is the last round I play with her.

            All hail the Queen of Die.