His Grandma’s Breath

Everything at his grandma’s house
sighed with the burden of
advancing age,
the sagging sofa with its
threadbare antimacassar,
the chipped Italian figurines,
the peeling grey linoleum
on the kitchen floor.
Even the parakeet
hovering on his clipped wings
had an ugly growth
on his green breast.
His grandma’s breath
bore the sour scent
of black plums.
He averted his head
when she bent to kiss him
as if he feared
her toothless gums
would suck his youth away.

Her dentures floated in a pink solution
on the bathroom shelf,
grinning back at him
every time he went to pee.

She served him tea
in slender clouded glasses
that his mother rinsed out twice
in scalding water.
As he ate the unfamiliar food,
he imagined that the cows
were licking him
with their pickled tongues,
that the glassy eye
of the whitefish
was looking up at him
as he picked its bones

He watched his grandma’s eyes,
magnified by lenses
thick as old Coke bottles
roll back and forth
like giant marbles
as she studied him.
So, boychik, she said at last
take a good look,
this is what it’s like
to grow old.
Now give me your hand.
She placed a silver dollar
on his palm and
gently closed his fingers.
But you, you have a while yet,
so go enjoy.

(Originally published in Writer’s Haven)



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