My last remaining grandparent passed away last month. She was 93. Led a good strong life. Of all of my grandparents, I was closest to her by far. She taught me innumerable things during the time I got to spend with her. Some of my best childhood memories are of her....pulling weeds together in the garden, the carrots she always had cut up in the fridge when I'd come over. She was old school, grew up on a farm in Saskatchewan. Played baseball with all of the boys. She was proud of her biceps. She loved butter and strong coffee and cigarettes (not too many). She walked outside every day she could, loved flowers and growing things, appreciated artistry and music. Was an amazing potter. More than anything, in a very subtle way, she inspired me to always do whatever the fuck I wanted to do...for the sheer interest of it. She never judged or demeaned anything....always accepted and loved unconditionally. I'm so grateful for the years I had with her. I wrote this poem a few months ago, perhaps as some way of coming to terms with the fact that she was dying. On the surface it probably seems like nothing to do with the subject of this blog. But when I really think about it, all of the themes that I try to allude to....simplicity, vitality, authenticity, frugality, personal responsibility....those are all things that she exemplified. And as a result probably, things that I aspire to. So here it is.
Cigarettes smoking, green glass,
Kitchen table, porcelain figures
Of aged Chinese sages,
And the coffee pot bubbling behind it all.
The little house on Hessford street,
Amber light winking from the windows
At midnight, sore from the road,
I’d stack my giant motorcycle boots
Beside her tiny slippers.
She’d lead me downstairs,
show me the new pots she’d spun,
Clay drying beneath sheets of white gauze,
Geraniums by the window,
Intertwined with the bitter scent
Of strong coffee,
The gossiping of Betty next door
And the peregrinations of the benevolent racist
across the street.
Drifting tales of mad Vikings on the prairie,
Brothers gone off to war in Italy,
The sister who strangled her ducklings,
Pet badger cubs nestled in the bed,
and skinned coyotes nailed to the wood shed.
One brother had built wind turbines
from the axles of an old Ford van,
that once twirled in the Saskatchewan sunset
like La Mancha reimagined,
conjured out of dust and tumbleweed.
All thirteen dead now,
And her the last,
Succumbing slowly to poisoned kidneys,
A country’s breadth away and out of reach.
That warm kitchen, faded now
To an exit sign on the 401,
That slips past with a crippling haste.