There are moments and people in our lives that we can never forget. This poem is a picture and I suppose a tribute to my grandmother in the deep winter years of her life. I lived on the other side of the North American continent and was unable to visit often. I sometimes think it would be valuable to make poems or prose portraits of family members so their humanity and history can be known to their descendants. A written record can tell us significant details about a person’s attitude and demeanor often missed by photo snapshots.
White hair in a page-boy, she reminds me
more than ever of Jon of Arc, filled with fury
and defiant of everything and everyone,
refusing even to attend the church
she once loved. “That bunch,” she says,
throwing her right hand down and away,
jerking her head to the side so her white hair lifts
like a skirt spun in some mad dance.
She forgets a lot now,
burns food almost daily,
can’t recall which pills she took
or who visited this morning.
She is prey to cons. A week ago two fat women
pushed their way past her objections
through the back door, claiming to be social workers.
They took a few pieces of cheap jewelry
she hadn’t already given away to family.
Still, she won’t leave this small one bedroom house,
built of contractor leftovers by her long-deceased husband,
even though the roof leaks, the windows are painted shut
and “there’s too much racket in the street all hours of the night.”
She is rooted like the two tall blue spruce in the front yard
by long tendrils of a life which move her arms like branches
in a slight breeze one moment and a violent wind in another.
No, despite the odds, she will not leave
because she is still able to pray, comb her wispy hair
and kiss this strange visitor good-bye.