Portrait of Great Gramma

Portrait of Great Gramma
………………………….who died of cooties

she was my mother’s
mother’s mother
she was old

i did not want to kiss her
not that the musty smell of mothballs permeated from the closet into her dress
not that she was blind and her sturdy yet disfigured fingers needed to touch my face to see how tall i’d grown
not that at all

great gramma was old
she had no toys, no swingset in the yard
just sitting around the table in the kitchen, that’s what you did when visiting
she spoke italian
i sat their long enough to eat cake in English

i wanted to dance with the cigar store indian
who stood guard for the jordan almonds i always grabbed
when chief wooden arms failed to reach the crystal bowl or me for that matter

i seemed to find solace swirling into the parlour
it was small, compact
a good size for me who was also small
and liked to crawl beneath the doilies
there was not enough room for ballroom dancing

great gramma was old
don’t remember ever seeing a picture of when she wasn’t
don’t know when she became blind
what caused it
don’t know when she came to this country
but she ended up in new haven, ct. in a house with old bones too

she would speak to me
touching my face in italian
i didn’t want to look at her,
the green and white floor was linoleum

i did not want to kiss her, she had cooties

great gramma
was a chair
she never stood, maybe she did, i was young and paid no mind to what she could reach

i wanted to fill my pockets with jordan almonds
the kind you get at weddings, i was told
great gramma had cooties
i did not want to kiss her

to smell old chair mothballs
and see old arthritic mangled hands, that, i am told, once worked hard,
close up
was enough to try to comprehend
i was young

and cooties was the only explanation you should ever teach
a four year old
about the cancer that took great gramma’s nose from her face

_________________________________________© dld 08.06.06


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