I’ve been thinking of my grandmother lately. Each summer of my childhood, I escaped the forces of home to enjoy two carefree weeks in her presence. This poem is for her. I wrote it following a vivid dream that she’d come back to me. Erie Belle, always in my heart.
Erie Belle, named for a lake and a sea captain’s ship,
last night I dreamed my way into your house.
peeled flowery vinyl from your bedroom wall,
laughed at layers of Christmas wrap beneath.
Sunday shoes emptied inside the closet,
paint-gummed hinges, glass knob draped with stockings.
I touched your lamb’s wool coat and
embroidered yoke of your nightgown.
Between lacquered pearls coiled on the dresser,
clip-ons and screw-backed rhinestones clustered inside doilies.
I twisted out a bloom of dusty rose lipstick,
painted flowers on my mouth.
Frosted my hands with Vanda cream;
My skin now resembles yours with
Blue icing piped criss-cross over tendons.
Brat-pack crooners spun on your record player while
ecru lace imprinted elbows propped on the table.
Coleslaw, fried chicken, a side of That’s Amoré;
Doris Day sang lemon meringue onto my fork.
Scotch tape footsteps across sugary kitchen floor led to
plates looming topsy-turvy beside
wrought iron fry pans milky with bacon fat and
crispy butter-fried bits of sunshine.
You loved teacups married to saucers and
collector spoons from other people’s travels,
Kumbya in the living room and me singing to your mission circle.
You loved crochet hooks and bargain store wool
game shows buzzers and To Tell The Truth.
You loved your first love and he loved you in return
long after he’d forgotten your name.
Last night I tried to levy your
lilly-of-the-valley and peppermint presence in a dream.
Thought I heard the baritone trill of a porch door spring
but it was only a sleight of nostalgia
so strong my hope to resurrect you.
I loved your octogenarian glow of girlish sweetness
And how you made an ordinary little girl feel extraordinary
in dog days of July.
I straightened Gainsborough’s Pinky and Blue Boy