The Disappearing Grandmothers

 

 

My Father’s Mother

began to disappear

after her husband’s death,

but it took us years to notice.

When I was still a little child

she seemed present, solid as

the marble-top credenza in her room.

Some women, widowed young enough,

fill their spousal gap with yet

another man or, as one friend did,

with a piano; they expand

into the second movements

of their lives. Not she.

My grandmother, who could

sew children’s toys and woolen coats,

paint a landscape or a wall,

seemed to shrink each year—

30 years of loss and looking for—

who knows? The man

whose illness made him fade

into the cream-colored sheets?


For consolation, one bright bird

swayed on a weed above the snow.

She must have decided one

late afternoon: that isn’t enough.

Made herself so tiny on the orthopedic bed,

she vanished.

.

 

My Mother’s Mother

was not stout but sturdy,

worked like a farm girl,

which she was and spent

her long life smoothing

wrinkles out, like so:

the iron, the crease

the linen in the mangle,

corner on the sheet,

pie crust stretched tight

over the oozing fruit.

I knew she was

soft and firm, dimpled

as she husked corn

shelled peas, snapped

beans. The flesh

of her upper arms

flapped in its skin;

I marveled at the plasticity

she retained for years.

She tried to gather her clan

as if, through mere

proximity and quantity,

love would emerge.

She did not begin dwindling

until very late, lost

her firm softness.;

brittle as an apple seed,

she shut her eyes

and wept a little,

then disappeared from

a room built over the orchard.

 

 

 

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