Crown: A Family History

Brittany Perham


Father's Mother

Some of the details have been left out.
Nana is the one with the rotary phone. 
The 9 spins the wheel all the way around, clickclickckckck.
First pot roast, American chop suey, canned corn.
We watch the Jetsons: Rosie the robot maid serves dinner. 
Pineapple rings, peanuts, Jell-O loaf with mayonnaise. 
Are you hungry for Chef Boyardee? 
She collects four cans from the stack of cans on the basement stairs.
—She had the Depression Mentality, my mother says
My brother and I eat for ten off a TV tray.
Maraschino cherries over ice cream over pound cake: Rosie takes it all away.
George goes off in his spaceship; Jane goes off in her convertible spaceship.   
I spin the chair all the way around, cuhlick, cuhlick. 
The kids race around the spacehouse and Rosie follows with her stomach open.  


Mother's Father

The kids race around the spacehouse and Rosie follows with her stomach open.
Grampi hums songs no one's ever heard. 
Birds come to the feeder by the window and drop seeds in the grass.
When your mother was little, a bird crashed into this window and broke its neck, Grampi
Your mother screamed her head off.
That's how the end of the story always goes. 
—I had just seen The Birds, my mother says, which he didn't tell you. 
In the newspaper, Grampi reads the box scores. 
The Sox are on a Western road trip.
He lets us spread his driving maps on the carpet underneath the TV.  
He says, Mimi and I, we're going to Tuscaloosa for an antique show. 
We look for Tuscaloosa. 
Can you find me the best route? 
Mimi comes in with Grampi's Saltines.  
I'm starving, my brother says.


Mother's Mother

I'm starving, my brother says.
They're going to watch the six o'clock news for the whole hour, no more cartoons. 
The only good thing in this house is the coffee can of Grampi's Oreos and the Oreos taste
            like vitamins.
The coffee can is on the kitchen shelf behind the jars of Mimi's vitamins. 
It's six o'clock, Mimi says and the channel changes. 
When there aren't Oreos there're Fig Newtons or there's nothing.
The coffee can is high up where we can't immediately reach it.
Mimi won't offer anything.  
Mimi has a drawer of erasable pens, Scotch tape, and letter openers. 
—You always liked those erasable pens, my mother says.
You'd bring them home in your backpack, she hated it!
The news stories play one by one. 
Crawl in there like G.I. Joe and scale the shelves and get that coffee can, I say to my brother. 
Is it empty or?


Father's Father

is it empty or ?
his heart
spun around in his chair, cuhlick cuhlick
well, it stopped/tore
yes he was dead younger than your father is now, my mother says
the first time she tells me
and your father was still 
I lie on the floor and look up at the skylight for the whole hour.
—how old was dad then? 12? 13? or
glasses on his face, that's all
I know of this story
a purple heart


Mother's Mother's Mother

A purple heart:
blackberry upside down cake or blackberry pie?
Bubba, can I sit on your footstool?
Bubba, can I try on your jewelry?
Bubba, can I open this secret drawer in your desk? This one too?
Yes yes yes yes. 
Can I have tea like a grown-up from your china cup?
Brown flower, green flower, yellow daisy. 
—She always said yes to you, my mother says.
I wing my pinkie out and twirl my beads. 
Here you are feeding me a sugar cube.  
A sugar tower reflected in a silver tray.
Are you telling me this story?
Here I am in your hospital bed and—
why is this drawer empty? Why is this one?


Mother's Mother's Father

why is this drawer empty? Why is this one? 
lungs like paper/from the war, yes
isn't that part of the story?
—I threw up in Sunday School at the Christian Science church, my mother says,
I told him I would and I did. 
I said I was sick and he said, we don't say sick. 
—no oxygen tank, even at the end? 
—he refused, he didn't believe—
—but wasn't he a doctor also? 
—he had his faith in God.
is this the right information?


Mother's Father's Father

is this the right information?
—his store was on the road from Boothbay Harbor to Ocean Point?
Whoopee pies, Hostess Cupcakes, orange NeHis.
on the rock out back my mother sat looking through some trees, yes
it's not a store anymore, it's someone's house now
but in the morning all the fishermen would
—at the counter
penny candy 
stories, gossip


Mother's Father's Mother

stories, gossip
whoopee pies, brownies, blueberry muffins
in the glass cases all before the 4am rush
coveralls and waders, mud and sea water on the store floor
oh yes she was fat!
and every summer I was shipped off to her, my mother says,
told to play with my cousins, all boys
who left me behind 
I collected jars of things
periwinkles, crab shells, beach glass, those kinds of things 
my cousins painted Bean Super instead of Bean Supper 
on all the signs leading up to the casino
I was too shy to correct them—when I say "casino" 
it's not what you think 


Father's Father's Father

it's not what you think

a bridge/an oncoming train
he jumped
this is a missing story
my mother tells when I'm grown up
like I've known it all along
no surprise —well, I can imagine it
full-blood, do you still say that?
—which town/tracks was it much


Father's Father's Mother


that's it


Father's Mother's Mother

that's it:
mother to Dorothy Bund and Dorothy's two Bund sisters.
Bund, but what was her first name?
no wait, wrong side of the family/story
—that was the married name, my mother says
she was _____ Something then she got married and became _____ Bund;
this is what always happens.


Father's Mother's Father

This is what always happens:
Nana and her two Bund sisters 
leave for school with makeup in their coat pockets.
They put on their lipstick standing on the corner
where he can't see them 
because—Nana told my mother 
the story up to this point:
—if he catches them he'll hit them?
—maybe. It's my mother who tells me. 
—did he catch them?
what's the rest of the story?



what's the rest of the story?
You are the 9 who spins the wheel all the way around, clickclickckckck,
who finds the best route.
You always liked erasable pens, you say. 
I lie on the floor and look up at you for the whole hour
—are you telling me this story?
I told you I would and I did.
penny candy
periwinkles, crab shells, beach glass, those kinds of things 
a bridge/an oncoming train
that's it
you were Leigh Wellington and then you got married and became Leigh Perham
—maybe. It's you who tell me
everything I know.



Everything I know
may be summarized as follows:
Robert Hanbridge Perham, Jr., born on March 17th, 1951 to Robert Hanbridge Perham, Sr.
            and Dorothy Arlene (Bund) Perham in Melrose, Massachusetts; 
wed Leigh (Wellington) Perham (b. 1951) in Reading, Massachusetts, 1974; 
begot two children, Brittany Titania Perham (b. 1981) and Cameron Jake Perham (b. 1988); 
sold insurance for Fidelity Union Life, Alexander Hamilton Life, Investors Capital
            Corporation and ?;
divorced and was divorced by Leigh Perham ("irreconcilable differences") in the
            Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 2004; 
"divorced" and was "divorced by" (there is no English word to express this) his children in
            the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, (there is no legal document or date); 
wed Arlene (?) Perham (b. ?) in ?, ?, ?, and widowed by the same Arlene (?) Perham
            (d. ? in ?, ?, c.o.d.: "?");
suffered illness relating to liver disease, blood poisoning, and ? (201?-2014) requiring ? admittances
            to ? hospitals in Beverly, Massachusetts, Hadley, Massachusetts, Boston, Massachusetts, and
            ?, Massachusetts; 
died in Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, at 2:10pm on April 30th,
            2014, after life support is withdrawn under direction and supervision of his
            children, Brittany Titania Perham and Cameron Jake Perham, c.o.d., "end stage liver
            disease" caused by "alcoholic cirrhosis";
—some of the details have been left out.


A Family History

Some of the details have been left out. 
The kids race around the spacehouse and Rosie follows with her stomach open.
That's how the end of the story always goes.
Is it empty or ?
a purple heart.
Why is this drawer empty? Why is this one? 
Is this the right information?
Stories, gossip,
it's not what you think.
that's it.
This is what always happens.
What's the rest of the story?
Everything I know.