GRANDMOTHER: AFTER SCHOOL

Issue EightIssue Eight PoetryPoetry

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By Eamonn Wall

 

—the best teacher lives outside, the best teacher lives inside you, beating blood, breathing air, the best teacher is alive. Joanne Kyger.

 

Buttered toast flavored with raspberry

preserve grandmother prepares for me.

Annie Murphy pours two cups of tea,

seats herself across the table, the kitchen

of the old house on Barrack St. warm,

its exterior walls thick as tractor tires

where, settling, she hears each loosened

episode of a boy’s day at school, her

gaze a poultice to draw a wound

or to reveal passage to a brighter room,

her dark blue dress marked by a starched

white linen collar, her faint gazes and soft

gestures abate the wind that makes

all children crazy, as mother likes to say,

her eyes call to mind season’s sunny days,

summer time and ease, old and kinder ways.

 

When grandmother came to live with us,

mother told me once, she brought

but one small suitcase, all her adult life

having inhabited one guest room at the hotel

she had opened, that granny liked to add

how confined space allowed for certain

freedoms to emerge, not to own or be

submerged in many accessories, shoes,

and clothes. I recall still her elegance

of dress, how always her face and hands

sparkled with cleanliness. Her husband,

a most contrary man, fitted his possessions

into twin containers: a worn brown valise

and shiny shaving bag to join our rowdy band:

visitors all traversing then a green and fertile land.

 

Today, rain beats the thick plate glass

of the high-rise where from my desk

I sweep cups-to-go and bagels by forced air

desiccated into a metal bin, growing

more aware, root or rhizome, of hobnailed

men who think all female wisdom willful,

cut to holy wafer thin. She favored all shades

of blue, her dark shoes polished into light,

her hair like a girl’s caught by a bright barrette.

We savored an hour together at the kitchen

table sharing tea, school dusting off, Annie

Murphy—I called her Granny Annie—and me.

 


(Published in Nathalie Anderson ed. Open-Eyed Full Throated: An Anthology of American/Irish Poets. Dublin; Arlen House 2019)