Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Family Drama

Reading an article yesterday about writing workshops, I understood the author's funny take on the experience-- listening to melodramatic poems, sappy love poems, the flood of dead grandmother poems-- but I also have a dead grandmother, 2 in fact; and I've only ever written poems or songs about one of them. So here, with a wink and maybe a pinch, is my dead Grandmother poem. A couple more may follow, later, to catch up as usual.


Our Name

is the same, at end
though you didn't want to share
your life or family

you called my mother
"that French girl," epithet or

you kept the plastic
on your couch for our visits
then wiped the dirt off

my eleventh year
your son died, having left us
a car, not much else

some cold spring morning
visiting my father's grave
they said you'd moved it

we couldn't have him
clean and free, of alcohol
or you, live or dead

i heard you had passed
by chance, and by chance I heard
i had an aunt, too

 in church, years before
my grandfather came to us
shook my hand and left

my father gave us
each a quarter for ice cream
when it cost a buck

his last, hard visit
we sat politely, strangers
painting in eight years

never met that aunt
who saw me as a baby
then wrote off the child

we share a last name
we share being called Polack
and our wide cheekbones

 i have a family
they came from Alsace, Lorraine
and made that French girl

after passing through
Montreal, Quebec, to make
my grandmother first

Estelle, or Stella
(she preferred that) my Gram
Acquard, then Hummel

baker of cookies
white-haired, tiny, barrel-shaped
from making children

she lived out decades
in her room. and the kitchen
drinking tea for thought

my seventeenth year
i found Stella; icy, still
her face drawn in pain

i told my mother
over the phone, to sit down
bad news was coming

a rainy morning
three weeks after my cat died
we put her in earth

the same green corner
that now holds my sister Lynne
but not our father

Gram never spoke ill
towards men who'd abandoned her
or you, and your kin

who had rejected
her own daughter as unfit
through plain bigotry

husband and son gone
she stayed through my early life
passed down a silk scarf

red, from a wedding
of some recent descendants
from old Villefleur

our baking Grandma
that sewed us homemade dresses
and washed our dishes

teaching openness
explaining the miracles
measuring spices

your grave, i don't know
you passed just one thing to us
and that, grudgingly

i am Kozlowski
by virtue of tired law and
regrettable sperm

by MK


Songsville said...

Wow, this is epic on so many levels -- I never even noticed it was all haiku until the second read through ... effortless technique here! The old-world-ness here suffuses every stanza, and the claustrophobia of family weighs heavily like a shroud over the whole ... love the baking grandma section in particular, and the French parts, and well, can I say 'wow' and 'epic' again ?

heavy hedonist said...

You're too kind! But I'm stoked that I slipped all the haiku in that way-- I didn't intend it, they just naturally started forming and then it was easy. I tend to think in haiku...