The last time I remember talking to you,
you were wearing your purple silk dress,
your white hair twisted by the wind
that seemed would blow you over.
You had the little rocking chair in your hand
and you asked me who was stealing your things,
why my dad wouldn’t let you go home.
|Meadowlark - December 2017|
I was twelve. There was nothing I could do
but carry the chair and take you back inside with me
to the house we shared, even though you didn’t recognize it.
The last time I saw you, in your satin-lined coffin,
my mother was wearing a red dress.
She said it was your happy day —
you were free, no longer confused,
no longer afraid.
When you died, I thought,
well, that’s me, no more stories, no more history,
but I can’t look through a photo album without you
leaning over my shoulder.
Years later, racked with sorrow and confusion,
my marriage flying to pieces,
my heart in chunks of ash and ice and searing fire and helpless,
I passed an old woman in the parking lot at King Soopers
holding a bag of groceries.
She looked lost. The wind rocked her,
wrapped her purple silk dress around her frail legs.
I came back to ask if she needed help
and you looked out of her eyes and told me
everything would be all right.
This photo shows Thanksgiving dinner, circa 1940,
twenty-some years before I will be born.
Everyone’s around the table —
that’s me in your sepia flowered dress —
there’s my face.
Another photo: there’s you and Grandpa on the beach
with Jack and Mabel, Roy and Virginia,
Grace and Clifford. Your dress, wet from the surf,
is plastered against your knees.
Virginia wears a daring bathing suit with short sleeves
and a ruffled neckline. I see it still so clearly,
but when I was back in Galveston last year,
only the postcards would reminisce with me.
Now I am a grandmother.
My grandbaby too looks out of that 1940s Thanksgiving photo —
she’s standing by my side wearing the body of a nine-year-old boy.
Face, eyes, dreams, names — the bones remember.
From the rooftop you can see
it’s a city of ghosts —
windows empty holes,
black mildew like graffiti
painting the yellow walls,
crumbling to component dust.
Only the stray dogs
at the shanty town
by the river still move,
white shadows slinking
along the malecón
where lovers strolled
holding hands above the colonial river.
Now, garbage and feral children,
cats and pigeons claim the streets.
The world is turning shades of blue,
a wall of clouds moving in from the west
to meet the darkening sky behind us.
Pin Oak Lake lies still, waiting,
a palette for the sky to fill.
Two hawks rise up, their cries
eerie in the winter dusk,
their feathers striking the last notes of gold
from the setting sun. They
wheel and circle, a dance of rage
or love or something in between —
We cannot tell. It does not matter.