Grandmother’s Mother

I do not know
The name of my Grandmother’s mother
But I know she died alone
In the institution
Where they put her for
The seizures that began
After, while tending a horse in its stall
She was kicked, just here
In the side of the head.
I imagine her in a room
With wide windows to let in hazy gray overcast sun
Through moth-eaten curtains of lace
That stink with the must smell of dust
Drifting among other women with crooked heads and quivering limbs.
And I know that her fisherman husband
After locking her away
With his coarse briny hands traded water for whiskey and wine.
He’d come across the ocean, left cold Sweden behind
To be on this western shore with this woman
These children, this family forgotten.
And while her man funneled dollars into bottles
And her children’s home was forsaken
I imagine her sitting in that pale, ivory room
With still stagnant air the color of dusted silver
The silence a little song
Of murmured whispers between lips that speak
Only to each other —
I imagine her sitting in a chair which was carved out of wood
Staring at hands which once belonged to her, laying in her lap
Long-fingered and strong from pulling on reins, nailing shoes, picking hooves, polishing saddles, callused but smooth
Now decaying to withered gray skin
Hanging on bird-frail bones
Like leaves clinging to barbed wire.
And I know that somewhere in the city
There were two little girls and a boy
Forgetting a mother who’d simply gone away
While they made home away from a father whose lips were too busy with the rims of glasses filled with amber and ice to remember to speak gently to children under foot.
I imagine her sitting in her old carved rocking chair
Heels against the cold tile floor, rocking with her head slightly bent
Imagining the mewling sound of her youngest daughter’s voice
Asking where her mother had gone
Hoping that she asked at all.
I imagine her watching her fingers while the years slip through them
Unable to grasp while she waits
For her husband to stow the bottle
For her children to remember
Where they left her.
A long time she spent waiting to hear the sound of her little daughter’s voice, no longer mewling, a woman’s voice now
Finding her beneath the sky-less windows
Where she waited, watching the years slither past
Saying “Dead, Mom,
I thought you were dead.
No one ever told me otherwise.”


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