The    Truth    About    Zella

	is I have only pictures, built backwards into memories:
	My sister and I, at four and six, standing 
	in front of an unidentified farmhouse,

	cradling freshly-picked squash and squinting
	at the camera.  My grandmother's knees separate
	us; skinny, the color of Oklahoma dust, the state

	where she was born but never lived.  Grooves
	in her skin tilt upwards like thick smiles.  My mother
	disapproved of "Grandpa Willie", the photographer

	and Zella's live-in lover, so we seldom saw her
	after that.  Every Christmas, though, we received
	brightly wrapped shoeboxes full of handmade

	doilies and dolls made out of pantyhose.
	We played with the toys for a day or so, then hid
	them beneath our beds.  The doilies later became

	cat blankets.  When Zella died, her body crumpled
	like a long ashtip from the cigarettes she loved to smoke,
	I learned about cremation, that her body had not been fed

	through a meat grinder, no matter what my classmates
	had said.  My mother brought home the dress Zella wore
	at my parents' wedding, a pale-green polyester shift

	with bands of rhinestones around the neck
	and waist.  It was so stiff it stood without a body,
	which was how I now envisioned her.  

	Another summer, twelve years later, and my sister
	is lifeguarding.  Under the unforgiving Texas sun,
	her skin has turned a dark red, as if someone

	lovingly rubbed moist clay deep into her pores.
	Every weekend I search flea markets for bits
	of bright lace and other knits to drape

	around the house.  Neither of us like
	our lumpy knees.  And the truth about Zella
	is that we still never speak of her.

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