Monday, March 17, 2014

Poem: Genevieve


In the kitchen, Grandma was a turbine
smooth and powerful
quietly churning out beds of
baked beans
under a jacket of brown sugar and bacon
vats of potato salad that
appeared out of nowhere
roast turkey that fell to pieces in your mouth and
bright orange slices of vegetable candy –
the only cooked carrots that I could ever enjoy

It would never come from her lips but
told me, as a young wife
she cooked for entire logging camps in Alaska

which explains the leftovers.

She was considered unusually cool
for a grandmother
because she drove a red Mustang
was a single mom with a kid my age
and blessed with seven granddaughters could
shop with the best of them

When they asked me where I got the
polyurethane New Wave pseudo-military
wedge lapel jacket with the
wicked Dance Machine Michael Jackson angles
I would smile
slide the moss green zipper half way up and
relish my answer

“She was born in Alaska, you know.
And she invented divorce.”

One Christmastime we passed around
a frayed black and white photo
some time in the ‘30s
a young whip-smart June, already burdened
seated on a chair with her husband on her lap
a dark-haired bush pilot looking
wild, out of balance
staring at the camera with my uncle’s eyes
one foot already out the door

But even with all this knowledge
I may never have known her
may never have delved very far beneath the
layers of Seward toughness
and Indiana stoic

It took nothing less than
my mother’s death
to finally bring it out of her
seated beside me at the kitchen table
the evening after the funeral
her admission a string of
chopped-up words
through a gush of unwelcome tears

“Mike. This should never happen.
A mother should never have to
see her children die.”

In our lives, Grandma was a white blood cell
equipped with enzymes that could sense the damage and
rush her there to heal the wound
to fill the gap
to sit the kids

Now she has become the wound itself
and we part from this Indiana graveside
on diminished limbs
and skyward breath.

First published in The Montserrat Review
(San Jose, California)
From the collection Great Showtunes of the American Stage  
Photo by MJV

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