(for Nancy Ann)
As a little girl, falling down meant
you would appear like magic,
a petite miracle bearing Band-Aids and hugs,
your voice a gentle hymn that calmed me
You’ve skinned your knee,
Show Grandma where it hurts.
Grown up now, I still want to run
at the sight of these tiny butterfly closures
like wishes holding your wound together.
When the doctors split you open,
sawing through muscle and bone,
they saw something no one else, not even you,
has ever seen–your heart,
fluttering helplessly inside
the cage of your chest like
a broken-winged bird; your heart
with its unchangeable catalogue of events–
that quickened at the birth of your firstborn son
and, years later, tightened
into a fist of misery when he took his own life,
leaving behind only the space
he once occupied,
a paper doll cut from the page
Unlike your jagged paperweight of pain,
my rage has rounded edges;
having no memory of him
allows me to hold his death like a gift,
a wordless warning of what not to do to my children.
For you, these unbalanced years
are still just crooked litanies of grief
that cannot comfort you,
his name indelibly written
in the sacred journal of your heart.
And when I stand here before you,
my arms full of flowers and
the weak salve of my love,
wearing green eyes and bone structure you helped create,
I am doing something I learned early from you:
I am saying Grandma, show me where it hurts
as if it was that easy.