for Nicolina Ciaranello and Robert Ciaranello
My grandmother’s face comes into focus in the mirror above the sink,
in the slowly fading shower mist. She winks at me, then stares
and smiles. I gasp, step back, lean forward again. The last time
I saw my grandmother, more than 55 years ago,
I was sixteen, and she was dead. She appeared at my bedside
that night to say goodbye, her touch electric and full of love.
When she faded, I roused my parents, who said nightmare.
But no, she had departed. She created a meteor of love in my life
and left behind a barren crater. I remember the smells
of manicotti, lasagna and pizza baking, the tastes of honey balls,
the cookies she called “gloves” because she molded them
over her wide thick hands. I loved her “surprise cookies”
with hidden treats. Sometimes, even a quarter would be tucked inside.
Beans climbed poles in a garden where mica sparkled in the soil.
She heated my morning cereal with coffee and always had a safe lap
and tight warm hugs. When I last saw my brother,
he told me I looked more like my grandmother every day.
I snapped, “that’s not a compliment,” then flushed
with shame, as if, despite my love, I’d betrayed her.
Apparently, with that wink, that gleam of eye, that subtle smile,
she forgives me. But she’s gone again, and it’s only me,
looking back at myself from my grandmother’s face.
Mary Stebbins Taitt
This poem was written in response to Portrait of an Old Woman, by Graham Brindley, not to the image shown above.
Mary Stebbins Taitt lives in Detroit and has an MFA in Creative Writing in poetry from Vermont College of Fine Arts where she also did a postgraduate semester, which included a Poet’s Trip to Slovenia with the poet Richard Jackson. Her poem, "A Jungle of Light," was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She was chosen for McSweeney’s Poets Picking Poets.
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