in the curl of her arm chair my Pentecostal grandmother
flew through her Alzheimer’s like a parrot
back to her century’s beginnings.
Flew past the gray-crayoned hours, back to before work and long womahood began,
flew through silver spoons, past summer’s hollow bridges, flew back to a point
before Satan started watching
for her from his corners.
Pears were for eating. Then steaming and canning.
Then finally something shaped like a ball.
But there were no children. Where are the children?
When she’d awaken, minutes would arrive like alien chopsticks from a place
she’d never visited. Food became unusual and then empty, not good
for much at all.
She’d only seen a parrot once. It was a jeweled Ukrainian egg.
She’s known beads that were real, and something that looked like a heart
made of amethyst, a word she’d
never learned. In the back of her house
there was a dark and crowded space
with a block of wood
and an axe.
This is where she killed chickens for supper.
The earth floor was damp with an enameled smell, her apron
the colour of fish in a field of wheat.
Flashes of sound. Few.
Flashes of sound. None.
All in one place, all in one place.
But that, near the end, she ceaselessly
polished her fingernails
with her young woman’s thumb. And over there
tossed in the shade, something unforeseen,
long and illegible, something hovering
just over the grass.
fn0. Winner, Confederation Poets Prize 2007
poem appeared in _Arc_ 56, Summer 2006
award announced in _Arc_ 58, Summer 2007