Monday, May 23, 2011


for my grandmother, Naomi Hansen. I loved the way she talked.

She never had a couch,
certainly not a sofa.
Only the davenport:
each unnecessary syllable
another lumpy cushion.

Oh my land
we knew her mild expletives
but not her stories--
descended from Norse stoics,
raised by American gothics,
she knew how to be invisible and unmovable;
self-effacing and all-powerful--
a simple, omnipotent country girl.

You're like to lose your britches,
a sharp yank by the beltloops.
In her arms we shrunk,
dwarfed by her sturdy density,
pinned like butterflies by staccato lipsticky pecks.
That pragmatic love meant nothing more or less
than protection from the elements,
than our survival ensured at any cost.
That affection had no time for coddling.

En route to matriarch,
Naomi obeyed the 1950s:
made children with matching initials and
hand sewed prom dresses;
gave both her names away
in favor of Mother;
hosted bridge clubs and PEO and unironic wiener roasts;
collected porcelain birds,
made jello and called it salad.

Aw, heck
prone on the davenport, she dismisses us with her hand,
turns off the television--
can't hear the damn thing anyway.
I lean in to say goodbye.

She smells of the indignity
of a body outlived.
Eyes rimmed red, paler blue than ever,
her voice is stronger than the rest of her:
you sure are a heckuva good lookin' gal.
In her tiny arms I am buttressed.
Her words and I
no longer dwarfed by anything solid.

We are what's left of her.

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