Granna in the Spring

Her papery skin is soft and cool, still
pink. It drapes her skeleton. Her cheeks
sunken tents held up by bones, her nose
a stake poking out too far to look
like it was part of the original plan. She
has a downcast gaze like that statue
in church of the Virgin Mary, that gaze
you expect your grandmother to have
on her deathbed. There are whisperings
about her sainthood, her life, about
her assurance to go to heaven. I sit on the
heating duct and listen to my big brother
speak to her in a child's language, realize
I love him more than I ever have.

We the altered reproductions of her dying
image fill the room, gorgeous, prepared to scatter
like baby spiders when she's gone. The nurses
scamper in and call her sweetheart , clean
the mucous from her mouth with little
sponges. This is what finally makes me

cry. The beeping and flashing machine
dispensing bags of anodyne
and sugar water into her tiny
arm keeps us awake to her. Sometimes
we laugh with each other
about nothing and she smiles.

* * *

The insides of the refrigerators
are stacked with plastic trays
of butterscotch brownies, chicken
salad sandwiches, casseroles
of turkey and noodles, wilted
vegetables, the counters
and tables spread with daisies,
daffodils, potted cyclamen, rubrum
lilies whose stamens stain
my nose, half-empty jugs of gin
and scotch and bottles of wine.
We come to my mother's kitchen to unwind.

* * *

We take turns, walk
in circles in and out
of the grudging
air. At night we drink
together. We gather
and wait. One of us
sleeps in the chair
beside her bed,
rubs her legs
and arms, fending
off bedsores,
and death.

We wait for her death like
we wait for the changing
of the seasons. The kisses
slip from our tight lips.

--Suzanne L. Gillis