[from Susan Grimm’s Lake Erie Blue, 2004]
— Eugenie and Stefan, grandparents
Old woman with thin white braids. She has shut
the back gate. She is not wise. She has one
golden earring, the hole for the other long closed.
For each rose planted in the yard, a child
goes into the world and brings back love.
Her legs are stretched out before her. This dying
takes so long. This dying does not matter.
She waits for the absence of breath to make her new.
Letters she’s received:
Our Mother is dead — across the sea
like a star winking out — that far away —
but the night is darker, hence the black border.
I’ll send for you and the children —
no note on the table when he left, but two months
later a postcard of Squirrel Hill stuck
in an envelope, the flap not quite reaching.
We’ve found work, Mother. Come
to Cleveland as soon as you can.
She is walking the straight mown lane cut
from a tangle of saplings, sumac, pigweed,
morning glory vine. The whole weight of her
strikes firm on her two small feet. At the top,
if she turns, the woods will be at her back,
like the Carpathian forests where her father
disappeared each Monday bearing an axe. Now,
on her right — the easily observed space,
the hay bound up, the undulating backs of the hills.
How in the night he lay down, variable as dusk.
Later the good pain of the child tearing out,
her screams, the slick and bloody sheets.
Not necessarily acts of love, more like magic
beans — husband as peddler — making someone
who stays; pillar to the roof of family, wheel
to the wagon of home. Promise her birds
to peck out his eyes, elves that slice off
his tongue, gods who root him like a tree, hands
jerked up — fluttering — away from her skin.