Amy Kitchell Leighty
Amy Kitchell Leighty

The Tarot Cards

My grandmother Jennie read cards

to customers in her restaurant, to friends,

and to family—summing up

their pasts, outlining their futures.

She read my father’s cards

and turned up one that meant

someone close to him was going

to die. A few weeks later

a blood clot went straight to her heart.

That was Halloween night, before any of us

kids were born. How I wish I could’ve

known my grandmother. She was

an entrepreneur, ahead of her time,

gave birth to my mother

at age thirty-nine—almost unheard of

in 1944. She said her father knew

how to blow the fire from a wound,

was going to pass the gift to her

but died before he could. So instead

her luck was tarot cards, each reading

accurate. A deck soft from the bridge

her hands made while shuffling, the faces

worn and scuffed. The cards were passed

to my sister who read them once

for me. My sister died young

and now I can’t help but wonder

if she knew something we didn’t

know—if she read her own cards.

Perhaps that was the reason why

she was in such a hurry: to get

married, to have a baby, to have

a home. I think my grandmother must’ve

grabbed the string of pearls around her neck

when she flipped over that card

in front of my father in 1969 saying,

I hope that isn’t me.

 

The Drive

I tried to get to you as fast as I could.

I had to be there before they wheeled

you out, had to see for myself—feel you

myself—to make sure you were gone.

What if that hospice nurse was wrong?

What if you were still breathing or in a

deep coma? I was pulled over right before

I got on the highway. The cop clocked me

at some high speed, but I couldn’t hear him.

I said, “My sister died. I have to get to her.”

And he let me go, told me to drive

carefully. But once I got to your house,

I saw our mother, our siblings, and your

husband in the kitchen. Your son, Seth,

was asleep and you were gone. I had

missed you. Mother said,

“We waited in the bathroom.”

So that’s where our family was while

the paramedics took you out on the

stretcher your face covered by the white

sheet, everyone that is except me. And

suddenly I was glad to have been alone

in my car when you left instead of in that

cramped bathroom with five people

all trying not look into each other’s eyes,

trying not to listen to the paramedics talk

or hear the metal wheels from the stretcher

squeaking as they maneuvered your body

through the living room. Our family had to

huddle together behind a closed door

and smell that Lubriderm lotion we used

to rub on your dry skin mixed with the bleach

we used to keep your house clean—keep you

free of bacteria. But not me—I had been

in my car my foot on the pedal, radio off,

wondering what had happened to that

angora sweater you asked me not borrow

in high school but I did anyway

and ripped the sleeve.