Backyard Picnic

I grew up in a house full of cousins
though not this house where a sunny deck
envelops a kidney-shaped pool
and we play poker, hand after hand
while the kids digest the chips
and subs they had for lunch.

The adults are having gin for lunch.
I hold a king and a jack, the royal cousins.
My aunt watches from behind her pile of chips
as I will a queen from the unrelenting deck
though I know Vicky holds my queen in her hand.
Pine needles stab the surface of the pool.

The children stare forlornly into the pool
from which they’ve been banned. During lunch
Rich performed tricks for them. His hand
pulled quarters from behind cousins’
ears, then showed them how to pave the deck
with stones that shone like diamond chips.

The youngest grabs a handful of chips
and tosses them gleefully into the pool
running the length of the deck
to escape the adults. “I’m feeding lunch
to the pool!” she cries. Her cousins
follow suit, getting out of hand

until my aunt thrusts out her hand
and grabs them up like a fistful of chips.
Through air that fills with squealing cousins
she throws them one by one into the pool.
“The pool can eat you up for lunch,”
Maryann says, drawing a card from the deck.

Shadows of pine trees stripe the deck.
We each settle back into our own hand.
Spending next month’s lunch
money, I throw my chips
recklessly into the pool
crying, “Ante up, Cousins!”

But this lunch will be our last full hand.
Time chips away at our pool of cousins
leaving us with an incomplete deck.

Dawn Corrigan

If you have any thoughts on this poem,  Dawn Corrigan would be pleased to hear them.