Blood Relative by Dianna Mackinnon Henning

Blood Relative

I never knew my long, winsome Aunt Winona, her
arms a fine bone China, face
a Modigliani; someone who might
have recited Keats or Robert Burns, perhaps pressed
roses in a family Bible along with divorce filings. What

she smelled of, not a hint, her voice, no trace. In the only
photo, her holding me in infancy, there’s
a clue: her gaze stuck
between ahead and behind—pretty
woman with a bobbed cut. Her satin, A-line dress

slack over the cliff of her hips; her wedge shoes, Suiter
Hat with black veil, all speaking a certain
respectability—small ruby necklace, a blood stain,
resting in the hollow of her throat; a premonition
to the blood clot she’d later die from. Given Winona’s

necklace years after she passed, I often wore it, until
one day, taking an outdoor shower, I soaped
the spot it rested in, groped for the familiar chain, searched
drain-rocks, and understood that I held loss as though
it were the only stable thing to hold, when a woman decides enough.

by Dianna Mackinnon Henning

Editor’s Note: The meticulous descriptions of a long dead aunt fool the reader into thinking the point of this poem is mere memory, but the closing lines show that there is much more going on here beneath the surface.