“My Aunt’s Angels”

A Poem by Natalie Rose Richardson

April 5, 2022  By Natalie Rose Richardson

They knock on cupboards & ribs,
steal mothballs from the wardrobe’s dim corners
& patch them into their wings.
They scream when the kettle boils.
Their feet & fingers are webbed like geese.
Some bake bran muffins in blue children’s aprons.
The kitchen, powdered in bread flour, a cloud they glide through.
Others wrestle the wind through a screen door.
When the doorbell rings, they flap their arms & chirp
their mockingbird throats.
They work in shifts, all night shining shoes.
All morning they brush her hair.
Some are secretive & break the chimes, so she won’t
know their comings & goings.
Others dissect the basement mice & pin
the decorative bodies, splayed like fans, to the walls.
Their laughter rakes like tires screeching through a stop.
She begs them to stop but they only start a game
of tar & feathers.
She opens the door to leave, but more trudge in
ferrying beer bottles & shoehorns, tiny mouse bones dangling
from their teeth.
Some plant violets in the garden then wash their feet
so the dirt won’t track in. Or so the violets won’t grow
inside. Some rock her to bed & call her baby;
others roll their doll eyes & bite her fingernails to shards as she sleeps.
She once woke to a fistful of blood & feathers, believing
it a tiny bird she’d crushed in sleep.
Tomorrow, she will take a pill & they will leave in a mournful parade:
When angels leave us, they look like lost children.
She will spend all day counting their shadows like stitches
& washing that dead bird from her fingers’ webs.


Respect the Mike Natalie Rose Richardson

Excerpted from Respect The Mic: Celebrating 20 Years of Poetry From A Chicagoland High School. “My Aunt’s Angels” by Natalie Rose Richardson; Copyright © 2022 by Natalie Rose Richardson. Excerpted by permission of Penguin Workshop. All rights reserved.

Natalie Rose Richardson
Natalie Rose Richardson
Natalie Rose Richardson was born in New York City to a long line of border-crossers and proud people of blended heritage. Natalie is a graduate of the University of Chicago, and the Litowitz Creative Writing Program at Northwestern University. She is a current non-fiction MFA candidate at NYU. Her poetry and prose have appeared, or are forthcoming in: PoetryNarrative, Orion Magazine, North American Review, The Adroit Journal, Brevity, The Cincinnati Review, Arts & Letters, Emergence Magazine, Chicago Magazine, and others, along with numerous anthologies, including The Golden Shovel Anthology: New Poems Honoring Gwendolyn Brooks. She has received awards, residencies, or fellowships from the Poetry Society of America, The Poetry Foundation, Tin House, The Newberry Library, The Luminarts Foundation, Crab Orchard Review, Davis Projects for Peace, Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, and the National Student Poets Program. Richardson’s work has featured at BBC Radio London, Tedx, WBEZ Chicago, The British Royal Library, The Art Institute of Chicago, and the Poetry Foundation. She is a 2020 Pushcart Prize and Best New Poets nominee.

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