Martha Christina

Claudia and Russell, Turning


Her hair and nails freshly done,

my aunt steps into the arms

of a tall man, his name tag

at her eye level. “Russell,”

she reads aloud. “That was

my husband’s name. He

didn’t dance.”


This Russell turns her carefully

around the cleared floor. “I’ll dance

when I turn 100,” she has said

for a decade, and today Mercy Crest

staff stand ready with her wheel chair,

decorated with crepe paper streamers.


“I love this Happy Birthday song,”

she says, and hums along as Russell

turns her past the table where her

birthday cake waits. “Happy

Birthday, dear Claudia,” he sings,

and turns her again.


His voice interrupts her memories

of school dances, how she watched

from behind the refreshments table

and wished she were the older sister.

“My older sister will envy me,” she says,

“dancing with a Russell who can dance.”


Tomorrow she won’t remember the applause

as Russell returns her to her chair. She’ll

ask again to call her sister, dead for

twenty years. She’ll tell the CNA:

“When I turn 100, I’ll dance.”

Martha Christina is the author of two collections of poetry, most recently Against Detachment (Pecan Grove Press, 2016). A frequent contributor to Brevities, longer work appears or is forthcoming in Bryant Literary Review, Common Ground Review, Innisfree Poetry Journal, Main Street Rag, Red Eft Review, Word Soup, and elsewhere.



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