Poetic License: Grandmother
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.