Posts Tagged ‘granddaughter’

            for Merry

I loved to sit on that green and white swirled couch,

loved even more to sit on it with my grandmother.

Everything about her was soft. Her wrinkled hands,

her sagging face, her bosom-y body she was forever

trying to slim. Her voice was cloudlike. Her laughter,

fine gauze. And her eyes ever met me with silk-strong love.

Why do I always return to that one afternoon

when she let me sit beside her, reading her poem

after poem, as if she had no garden to tend, no meal

to make, no hymns to practice for Sunday’s service.

Forty years later, in my kitchen, I’m still with her on the couch,

hoping we’ll stay that way just a little longer.

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for Merry Stoll

wahtola - 02

After I learn that she died,

I go to the garden, grateful

that there are petunias,

cosmos and snapdragons

to plant. Salvia, pansies, and

verbena that will drape its purple

kindness down the sides

of the planter. I don’t

put on my gloves. I let my hands

enter the soil and feel

how good the earth is.

This is how I best remember her,

with a trowel or a scissors in her hand,

ready to transplant, to trim,

to harvest the blooms

into a bouquet for the altar

or table. Flowers hung

in her garage to dry. Flowers

in her bathrooms, her dining room,

her kitchen. It came easy to her,

which stem to place where.

Which color, which ribbon,

which grass, which vase.

She left beauty all over the place.

Once she sat with me

on her green and white couch,

and let me read her poems,

a whole book of them.

We sat there for hours,

and she listened and laughed

at Shel Silverstein’s antics,

and as I read, I felt like a flower,

like something just at the edge

of bloom. Her attention

made me beautiful.

Today, the garden is just starting

to find itself after winter. I cannot help

but weep into the holes I have dug.

It is tender, this moment, and fragile

this life. I feel like making wild pledges—

to honor her legacy—to find

and share beauty everywhere I go.

I feel determined to keep my word.

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She slumps at the table. It is shiny,
and like everything else here, it looks new,
everything else except the bodies, gnarled
and sloppy, hunched in and frail.
I cry in an instant, when, from across the room,
I see her, her face sunken,
her eyes closed, as if she is dreaming
she is somewhere else, beyond this room
with its scent of cabbage and medicine.
I do not want her to see me cry, but I walk
toward her table as fast as I dare, coming
to stand behind her wheelchair and kissing her on the head.
I say her name, I say it soft as the kiss that lands
in her short white hair. I say it soft as if the syllables
will break, or perhaps as if I will break in the speaking
of them. I tell her my name, not sure she’ll remember it.
Please, don’t let her see me cry. She opens
her eyes and finds me, and though English
does not have an elative case, we translate
with our eyes. She says my name, with what?
Surprise? And her signature gratitude. I notice her hands,
swollen and blue. And I kiss her head. And I kiss
her lips. Perhaps words will come later. I kiss her again.

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