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Poetic License: Grandmother

By Staff | May 19, 2011

By Lorraine A. Vail

When I had no grandmother

I made one up from bits and pieces

of what I knew, stitched her life

like a quilt, mismatched yet

somehow whole. She bore

thirteen children, eight survived,

one was my father who was born

after she made the journey

across the Atlantic. Dead at 39,

she married young to an older man.

I was told they were Lithuanian,

yet when I researched at Ellis Island,

Russia was listed. I knew this before

it was confirmed because when I

visited St. Petersburg I felt

a deep sense of belonging.

Her photograph hung in an

ornate frame near my bedroom

when I was a child. She was

an imposing woman, round face,

brown hair, barely a smile,

clear blue eyes like my dad.

I believe my ethnic face came

from her. When I looked

at her picture, her eyes seemed

to follow. . .she frightened me.

My grandmother was not

a liberated woman, Catholic,

tied by marriage vows,

she was a farmer’s wife and

her life was one continuing pregnancy.

She was not well-read nor had the time.

I like to think my energy came from her,

she had to be a worker and a doer.

I have nothing of hers– she never held

or kissed me, I never heard her voice.

One night her picture crashed and

the glass cracked. It was lying in my path

when I awoke. Was the wire that held it

stretched too far or did she want

to awaken something deep in me?

Co-founder of ArtPoems, prize-winning poet Lorraine A. Vail’s newest poetry collection, Fire in the Grass, is on sale at island book stores.