Today I’d like to share a poem I wrote about my maternal grandmother, who died in 1980, when I was only a senior in high school.
My grandmother was probably my favorite person on the planet. I adored her and thought, as a teenager, that I could deal with just about any challenge, as long as it didn’t involve losing her.
Nana and I, two years before her death
My grandmother, born in 1903, was beautiful as a young girl:
However, when I was myself an adolescent, Nana fell and broke her hip. She was subsequently unable to reach her own feet, so when I visited her, my favorite place to stay in the summers, I often washed them for her–something I allude to in the poem that follows.
(in memory of Martha Gilbert Kunkle)
we are oblique and
at odd angles:
me at the feet
i once washed
on a regular basis
in the dream:
she is getting older
looking at me
only with the edges
of her eyes.
Though often in my dreams my grandmother is still alive, I’m grateful in the mornings to know Nana, in all the ways that matter, has never really left–blessing enough–in my own now aging eyes.
I’m not nearly as crazy as I used to be. Now you could say I’m even semi-sane–though I’m not sure that’s always an advisable way to survive the madness that is image-obsessed, media-driven, fast-food-consuming middle America.
We may all be better off a little more crazy and a lot less obsessed with success.
However, and this is an over-sized qualifier indeed, my head has never quite figured out how to do sanity full-time. If only it were 9 to 5 instead of 24/7. That’s a lot more normal than I’m able to manage–even on a good day.
Too often still, my brain looks like this:
I enter the tangle
beside you into the thick
of camel hair
and without water
the hand, a sudden
against the decay
of folded sheets
I feel the surreal that is this:
So don’t worry if the dishes aren’t done, the laundry looms. The kids are bound to grow into semi-civilized adults despite your best efforts.
Normal’s not all it’s cracked up to be. So go a little crazy today.
Do something radical and off the wall: GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK!
In honor of Memorial Day, I’m remembering my identical twin sister Martha, who died several days after we were born.
Twins born a month premature had little chance of survival in 1962, a time before medical science knew how to save the tiniest of infants. I weighed just over 3 pounds, Marty just over 2. The doctors promised my parents neither of us would survive, but it seems even then I was determined to beat the odds.
This poem is written in the voice of my sister, who describes our experience in the womb: the veins lining the inside of the placenta we shared, her efforts to recite poetry about our time together , the fact that I was growing more quickly than she.
Hope you appreciate this poem about a primal kind of bonding and the profound sadness of losing someone whose DNA was identical to mine, someone who mirrored me even before the beginning, when “I” was “we” and “we” were wombed as one.
To my twin sister who lived to tell about it
The room, which was poorly lit
and warmer than we wanted,
curved around us
like the rind
as seen from the inside
I remember how you traced
the networking of veins
with the stub that became
the index finger
of your left hand
While I recited garbled
the fact that you were