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by Lucille Lang Day
Almost ninety now, she has lived
with her plants in fir-panelled rooms
this past half-century,
watching neighbors come and go.
At first her life seems distant, subtle
as a landscape in a Chinese painting—
a solitary woman, stooped
by a river laced with delicate waves.
Then you hear a piano: her fingers
remember hymns and ragtime tunes.
Her house rings. "Rock of Ages."
I listen outside while she plays.
Her only child died at five.
His pictures fade into walls,
deep wood, the past she would enter
if it weren't for the towhee
piping now, the buds on the plum tree,
the children by the creek.
My Grandma Emma had eight children,
all born in a farmhouse.
She died of pneumonia in 1918.
Grandma Ada died when I was four.
We used to cut out paper dolls,
her orange cat named Oscar curled at our feet.
No one's Grandma, Amelia walks
up and down the block;
she invites her neighbors over for sherry.
They seldom accept. She dreams
she is still a young woman
with long brown hair and plump baby.