98 Jasper Johns
by James Penha

At ninety-eight my aunt turns inward:
her lips sucked in between empty gums,
eyes, myopic without glasses she refuses
to bother with, see little, her hearing like
a rock, lack of appetite withering a frail
body, memories of her world as spotty
as an erasure poem although she usually
recognizes me on the third or fourth try—
not the doctor, not the nurse, but me,
the nephew she smiles to say she loves.

PAINTINGS: Numbers 9 and 8 from the Color Numeral Series (ULAE 59-68) by Jasper Johns (1969).


NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My aunt has survived the pandemic and so much else in her 98 years. She is frail now and forgetful. My visits with her at a New York assisted living facility recently provided a good memory for us both.

PHOTO: The author with his aunt in New York (2022).

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Expat New Yorker James Penha  (he/him🌈) has lived for the past three decades in Indonesia. Nominated for Pushcart Prizes in fiction and poetry, his work is widely published in journals and anthologies. His newest chapbook of poems, American Daguerreotypes, is available for Kindle. His essays have appeared in The New York Daily News and The New York Times. Penha edits The New Verse News, an online journal of current-events poetry. Find him on Twitter @JamesPenha.