Friday, January 2, 2015

Month of Poetry #2: The Grandmother

Before I knew her, she had a sharp beak of a nose
A surgeon sculpted her a delicate-bridged replacement, a gift
from her husband, the doctor, her reward for the throes
of childbirth that delivered him three sons; prior, of course, to the rift
that divided them, bitter and permanent. An obstreperous pair;
Ill-fitted fiercenesses, misaligned goals.
He with his certitudes, she with her care
For how things would look. Together, wrecked on the shoals
of redoubled recalcitrance. A rock and hard place,

so he left and she stayed, a middle-aged child
to care for her own ageing father, with unwonted grace
(he, of course, she loved, with the innocent, mild
uncomplex love of the four-year she was
when he handed her over to his own parents to rear).
 For her own four children, love was more difficult; because
I suppose, it was tangled with equal parts longing and fear
What was she like? She was fierce, sometimes kind
Sharp-tongued and savage and did not compromise;
She was brilliant at Scrabble, her quick fluid mind
Leeched away at the end by that dismal surprise
Of Alzheimer's. Yes, I know all you saw of her
was an old lady, bedbound, confused, frail as the grass

I knew her, earlier, when all neural pathways were
still connected. As she made her earth pass
She was who she was. She stood for the weak -
well, for some of them. And she had her hair done
every Saturday, at the hairdresser's, into a soft peak
She cooked me pho and introduced me to the fun
of poker, Monkey Magic, and Brighton Beach in the spring.

She loved me. I think. She didn't say so, but
she called to me, soft voiced, to come hear the birds sing
I wish now I had thought to embrace her then, she with her shut
heart, that bore several wounds too many for one
lifetime. I think I would have tried to love her more
had I understood, then, that sometimes the sun
might be weakly and faltering, edged round the door
but still it shines. My grandmother, you say? She was like me
as I might have been, had I had her road to walk
She was bright, she was curt, she wanted to see the world free
She could be wonderful, she knew how to talk

I loved her. I think so. It feels long ago, now,
Lost in the mists of the Time Before There Was You.
She was everything her time and place would allow-
Her traces I see in the paths the birds flew.

- Kathy, 2/1/15


  1. Very moving Kathy - and reflective. I love the way it conjures up your grandmother's character.

    1. Thank you. She was an original - a very complex lady in a lot of ways.