My dad stayed away from the tea leaves.
His grandmother and his mother had seen
too many bad omens in the bottom on the cup.
Dad used his gift for fun, a game he played
with Mom, their friends, some neighbors.
They sat around our dining table, hands
spread on the edge of the scratched maple top,
waiting for the spirits to come,
lift one of the table legs to answer questions:
one tap for yes, two taps for no,
barely audible in the silence.
My younger sister and I begged
to stay up, sat on the linoleum floor
under the table, straining to see the spirits.
We never caught even a glimpse of one,
but then, neither did we ever see a single hand
stray from the top of the table.
Some nights the group would sit for hours,
ask question after question of the spirits,
my sister and I long sent to bed; but we
were still awake searching for the spirits
the last time Dad played his game. That night
our next-door neighbor wasn't at the table.
He was home in bed that night the table
jumped across the room, sent my sister and me
scurrying, pinned by dad against the wall.
That night our next-door neighbor died.
d o r o t h y l a u r e n c e
i p s w i c h, m a s s a c h u s e t t s
Dorothy Emily Laurence's great-grandmother Emily, although passed for many years, continues to influence the poet's life, inspiring her trip to the Azores.
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