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Queen of Hearts

CAS for Database

Hazel Thekkekara

Atlanta, GA, USA

The Westminster Schools

Poetry

Fireflies light up the veranda before my

Ammama can turn on the switch. We sit

hunched over a heap of cards that have known more

years than I, &

with our shoulders closer

than the air around us,

we play.


My grandmother broods over her hand;

lips pursed, brows drawn together like curtains.

I almost miss

how the card in her hand trembles.

You’re bluffing, I say.

Only she wasn’t, &

the whole deck goes to me.


We stay up long after the fireflies retire.

The cool stone beneath us is now

warm from our heat, &

our backs creak like door hinges

we’ve neglected to oil.

The cards shift silently between us

as the air hushes with anticipation.


My Ammama’s calloused hands deal out more cards,

bent edges caressing the tips of her fingers.

I glance up from behind my uneven fan

of jacks & nines & aces,

trying to read the look on her face.

My grandmother’s eyes soften as she catches me staring,

crow’s feet deepening, but they only look like blessings.


I gaze at her eyes, her cheeks, her lips—

my aged mirror image.

The most beautiful hallucination clouds my senses

as I imagine my Ammama in her youth.

Her curly hair would be the color of fresh cloves,

damp from the monsoon rains, & her skin would be darkened

from days spent drenched in sunshine.


A golden mist hangs heavy in the air above us;

the shimmer settles in the slender crevices

of my Ammama’s face,

in the line between her eyelids and eyelashes.

She’s never looked so regal, or so…

so old, I think miserably.

My lips tug down of their own accord.


The image passes in an instant &

I’m left staring at the grandmother before me;

the same one I’ve always known,

with comfort etched into the curves of her face.

A bubbly laugh escapes my lips as I realize:

she hasn’t changed.

Glancing at my fan, I smile as I determine my play.


Two Queens, I say. Now is the time

to look for a spark of cognizance,

to listen for a cry of condemnation.

My Ammama eyes me carefully & I stare innocently back.

You’re bluffing, she says.

Only I wasn’t, &

the whole deck goes to her.


Now I protest as my Ammama

scoops me up, but my leaden head

betrays me,

dropping to rest on her shoulder.

Even winners have to sleep, she says.

So I dream, until tomorrow,

when we will begin again.

EDITORIAL PRAISE

The magic of “Queen of Hearts” lies in the everyday. The piece transforms a card game into a scene that blends youth and age, illusion and reality, past and present. Through this delicate rendering of an intergenerational interaction, meaning is derived from routine and repetition.

Hazel Thekkekara is a junior (class of 2024) at the Westminster Schools in Atlanta, Georgia. At school, she serves as an editor for the Bi-Line newspaper, a Writing Fellow, and a member of Embryo Literary Magazine. When she’s not writing, Hazel can be found rewatching David Suchet’s Poirot, baking box-mix brownies, or taking her dog on long walks around the neighborhood. She is constantly amazed at the magic of ordinary life and strives every day to translate that magic into words.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR