"Lotus Opening" by L. Folk

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Subtle Branding, In Memory of My Great Grandmother

Subtle Branding

Summer's wealth manifests itself
in the last of the leaves as my beating heart
pushes blood to their hungry bellies.
The aurora behind my eyes darkens.
The cave straight down the middle of me
echoes their grunts.

My husband chops wood
out in the yard as my father used to do.
Sometimes I confuse the two.
Dad, I want to call down to the cellar,
Dad? Dad?

Now here is Philomena
a floral house dress hiding her girth,
walking the path behind the woodpile.
I have known the inside of her home,
the smell of camphor and gas,
the rumble of her cauldron of sauce,
the braised letters of the old language
flavoring her telling of tales.

Gathered around her, her aging children
with stories of their own
with slender goblets in their hands,
salami rolled between their tongues.
They sailed the world, gambled, sang
and sinned
Told one another:
Don't tell Mama. Don't tell Mama.

Behind the woodpile, I led Philomena.
I was the great granddaughter,
the American, who wanted to show
the old mother my world.

Philomena, with her stockings rolled
down to her ankles, her soft leather shoes
molded to her bunions, was afraid.
Of what I knew not. Wild dogs?
Gypsies? These were of the old country.
But conquering one new world
was enough for her.

In the silence of the light,
I turned her around. She held firmly
to my arm and we both mute, carefully,
one soft molded shoe and sprite sneaker
after another
made our way back home.

It is evening and slender limbs
trace their names between the planets.
My husband has stacked the wood.
My children nap down in that cave
among the stories scratched into the wall.
The light of the fire blazes,
a subtle and gentle branding of each letter
into the backs of their skulls.

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