Someday in the seventies
when the sweet last scents
from the gardens made
no difference upon the glass
breaking, the bruise bluing,
she showed up, beautiful and strong,
with a silent necessity
I would always be grateful for.
She was wearing her smile red
and her heart sealed black,
speaking no poetry at all,
only the hard truth owned
by those marked by life.
Between herself and earth
something had ended,
but she loved every parcel of it
since she knew no other.
There was enough poetry
in the way the curve of her palms
implied we possess nothing,
enough inventiveness in her laugh.
I have a clear memory of walking
with her in the park, safe from home,
the mouth full of raspberries.
Others implying chicken necks
broken or fallen birds
fed on bread and milk
in the same kitchen.
The one day tears filled
her eyes to the brim, stars
fell like little bits of frosty steel
at my feet. I was fourteen.
We had to write about the war
at school, and her voice halted
when I asked about the camps.
She left the room and came back
with a book.
Unable to speak human speech,
porous to  these inner wordless
pains, I never asked again.
I just swallowed the pain.
We sat as photographs
haloed by the same hue
in the same family album.
She the resistant,
her long cigarette gone blue,
and I, the student.
Raspberries taste sweeter
since then.
When she left her body
like a paper bird on a hospital bed,
I was there, standing by the door.
I saw her endless graceful heart
stop. Her eyes froze, like Orion.
Her eyes, the color of Earth.
Because of her, I was reconciled,
in love with it
as she flew away.
I still am.

This poem is about my grandmother, Maine. It’s called by her name.

 

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