When Cousin Paula came to town everyone

came running to have their fortunes told.

Huge as a Barnum and Bailey fat lady

she sat like a huge toad in a trance.

With Romany eyes black as anthracite

she could mysteriously reveal facts

as detailed as an ultrasound.

She shuffled cards which spoke to her

and woe to you if an ace of spades turned up.

In obvious consternation her face would glower purple

as a flash-flooding incoming storm.

She often met with perfect strangers

who shuddered in shock when in her South Philly accent

she named names in their family, both living and dead,

described where they lived, jobs they had and worries

that kept them from sleeping at night.

With paranormal vision she exposed family feuds

and well guarded secrets like the account

of a pariah uncle, presumed to be dead whom

she reported was serving time in San Quentin.

She dug for nuggets of your life in the past

like an archeologist uncovering Neanderthal tools.

With oracular premonition she forecasted the future.

Casualties of her revelations left many blanched faces,

women weeping and wailing like Sicilian widows

lowering a husband in the ground.

Smelling salts, first aid for fainting ladies, always on hand

for those hearing more than they could bear.

She could never explain how she knew what she knew,

assumed she was born psychic like the gypsy children

she grew up with in the no-man’s-land of South Jersey.

Trying to unravel the source of her uncanny ability

a full battery of psychological tests revealed

nothing more than a garden variety neurotic mess.

Sadly, her extrasensory gift was of no use to herself.

She died smoking and eating herself into an early grave.