by Laura Madeline Wiseman
(Swans - April 10, 2006)
This is about my grandma
who died this week and how my eyes
tried to wet themselves unsuccessfully.
She used to paddle me with a brush
but I only remember the martinis
calculated for granddad's arrival home
and her folded in lamplight
reading of someone else's love.
When my great aunt died I took out
the afghan she made for my kid self
and let it clash for months
with the living room.
It was I who made the call to my mother
whose voice emptied like an airbag.
She let me go abruptly
laconic these fifteen years
to confide to the three cats
who will safely mind her
secrets to their death.
This is supposed to be about
my grandma dead this past Monday
but it ends up being about family
and the complicated ways of distance.
My sister had a baby at twenty
a biracial bastard three weeks old today.
But that's not the reason
we're to pussyfoot this choice.
But rather there's a history
of dealt with adolescent sex play.
Grandma married with a twenty inch waist
but miscalculated seven catholic rhythms
and had her first orgasm at thirty-eight.
When I was a child we'd watch Bob Barker
as she smoothed out time with Olay.
She smoked marijuana once
with two of her teenage daughters.
My mother tried to catch her
inevitable vomit with a cupped hand.
That was the same year of Jackie Kennedy's
failed attempt to save her husband's brain.
For a time I tried to unknow things
better left unsaid.
A father's fist that pummeled my fetus sister
to the ditch from a moving truck.
On the death of his child
a womanizing uncle that moonlighted
as a live-in houseguest sleep talking
of the time to put away play things.
But I've come to accept
it all comes back to the little deaths
and the unforeseen ones.
To the first red-headed brat
you slammed into the world
and the speed we've been careening toward
you ever since.
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