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I was standing in the doorway of my grandparent’s bedroom watching my mother and my aunt sort through dresses. This one? No, this one? There was a dress box on the shelf in the closet, they took it down and inside was a dress the color of candy. This one.

Where is Nanna? Where is she?

My grandmother won the Middlesex County Charleston Championship when she was twenty-three years old.

The wake, the funeral mass, the interment. We were deemed too young to partake. And sent to my mother’s second cousin’s home to swim and eat ice cream and learn to dance the hootchy-kootchy. Taught to us by her troublemaking teenage sons who never stopped laughing. I hear they both are Boston policemen now.


Yes, this is a poem about death. The death of my grandmother. (All poetry is about death, directly or indirectly. The tangential lines that we hold fast to, the helium balloon, the letting go.) I light a candle for her on All Soul’s Day and wait, inbetween the two worlds, wondering if I will hear her laughter again. I listen very, very hard with my eyes closed.

At bedtime, she taught me and my sister The Lord’s Prayer while my mother walked a sick baby. All three of us lying in the same narrow bed in the guest room. I still recite this just before I fall asleep, with her voice and the cadence of the prayer inside my head.


My aunt lived on the beach. The Atlantic Ocean is cold, on the New England coast, even in the summertime. We ran in and out of the waves, built sand castles, dug moats and filled them with buckets and buckets of sea water. My mother could find a perfect sand dollar every time she walked the beach. It was her magic trick.

My cousins were there. Their mother had died the year before, taking an experimental medicine. Decades later, I asked my mother about this. It was The Pill. One of my cousins tossed two handfuls of sand into my face. My mother scooped me up into her arms and ran all the way back to the house. She held my face under the kitchen sink faucet, crying with me, washing the grit out of my eyes.

You mustn't hold this against her, forgive forgive. She has lost so much. To this day my mother cannot speak to her.


Tumbling in the rectangle of lawn in front of my grandparent’s house. Somersaulting. Shouting, watch me, watch me. Teach me how to do a cartwheel. Uncle Lenny would grab our outstretched hands and swing us around and around his body. The axis of our world.

My father was away at war. We were instructed not to tell anyone, not teachers, not the priest, the neighbor kids.

My grandmother would lie down in the grass with us. My mother sitting cross-legged nearby, nursing the baby.

Rain brings fields of clover, Nanna would tell us, and she would comb through the bursts of shamrocks with her fingers. We would bend our faces close to the earth, seeking out the four-leaved clovers. Sweepstake winners.


My mother drove a Volkswagen wagon, the color of a cloudless sky. Long before the click-it-or-ticket laws; she kept each one of us buckled in, safe. We left early that morning, less than an hour after the telephone call that had startled the little beach house awake. What is it, what’s wrong, I asked. I had never seen my mother weep so openly. We drove through cloudbursts all the way back. I couldn’t see out the windshield, the wipers useless. The glass, the rain, my mother’s face, her tears.


Look, look! A rainbow. It rained all summer long. We were sent outside to play so Nanna could watch her show. A vampire soap opera. We weren’t allowed even to be in the same room when the telly was on. Go find the pot of gold, she would tell us. But don’t let me catch you leaving the yard.


May her soul and the souls of all the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace.


( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
May. 23rd, 2016 06:49 pm (UTC)
Thank you, R! I got really excited when my mind surfaced this idea of roygbiv for the prompt. I knew I wanted to write about my grandmother and that summer of looking for four-leaf clovers, but the poetic form freed me up.

I love that LJ coding allows for this font colour change!

I can imagine Leaves of Grass printed boldly.
May. 24th, 2016 03:56 am (UTC)
i got to "middlesex county charleston championship" and went "hey, i live there!" :D i really like this look into a family and a summer and the relationship between the narrator and mom, and the narrator and nanna. it's kind of melancholy and kind of nostalgic and i love the changing colors.
May. 24th, 2016 02:09 pm (UTC)
:) I know you do! Thanks for reading, C! I've been wanting to write about this summer for a long time. This is about as close as I can come, and even then it's cryptic. I was pretty jazzed when I hit upon the rainbow colour titles!
May. 24th, 2016 06:50 am (UTC)
Th format works well and it's a great piece with wonderful details that draw a compelling picture. (I still hold out hope for something not so *sad* from you one day though :P)
May. 24th, 2016 02:10 pm (UTC)
Thank you, L! It was both difficult and easy to write. It was a strange year in my life, a year filled with so much pain for all the adults I knew. So much happened, so much loneliness and despair. And I was so little! I'm not sure I could ever hold forth about all of it.

I will write something cheery. For YOU! This is a pact!
May. 24th, 2016 05:03 pm (UTC)
The call your mom got -- was it about your dad?
May. 26th, 2016 01:31 am (UTC)
It was about my grandmother. After my cousin threw the sand in my face, she took off down to the boardwalk. She was twelve. They looked for her all night and finally called my uncle around midnight to tell him to come down to the beach and find her and he told my grandmother who had a cardiac arrest.
May. 26th, 2016 01:32 pm (UTC)
How horrible for everyone!
May. 24th, 2016 08:18 pm (UTC)
This is so lovely, E. The beauty and the gentle rhythm of the work is soothing, and unsettling at the same time.

Like the first piece you wrote this week, we start at the end and work back to it again. This is a particular favorite method for me. There is a heightened sense of completion.

The way you've organized it by the colors of the rainbow is gorgeous. I like that while each (verse) is different, each packs a wallop. Though there are some verses that are almost light.

Family we're all so different. We're all so alike.

May. 26th, 2016 01:33 am (UTC)
Thank you, M! I've written several personal pieces this time around and it is scary but also somewhat freeing.

I do enjoy backwards storytelling or entering the story at a "strange" place. I think it pulls the reader up short right away and says, hey, pay attention. This isn't going to unfold in a linear way but there is a story here and by the end of my telling, you'll see that.

Totally agree with your family sentiment. I think that's why art works more often than not. Different but the same.
May. 25th, 2016 06:16 am (UTC)
What an interesting use of color as the structure to tell these family vignettes. Your grandmother comes across as someone who was not afraid to live on her own terms and was very close to her family. It's clear that you miss her, but also that anyone with such a grandmother would.
May. 26th, 2016 01:34 am (UTC)
Thanks, K! I really appreciate your thoughts here. I wish I could have had her in my life longer than I did. She was so cool, so uniquely herself. And fun!
May. 26th, 2016 02:53 pm (UTC)
You must have had a wonderful grandmother, and it shows here. These are very toughing reminiscences. Was the vampire soap opera "Dark Shadows"? The use of the colors as a structure was a great idea. All three of your entries are so different, and demonstrate the range of your talents.
May. 27th, 2016 02:28 pm (UTC)
Thank you, G. I have long wanted to write about that year, the year she died, but this may be the closest I ever get to it. Yes, it was Dark Shadows!

I really appreciate you mentioning a "range". I think that's something Idol really encourages writers experimenting with and it is important to stretch and flex! It's a rare opportunity and I'm truly grateful to have it with wonderful Idol readers!
May. 26th, 2016 09:47 pm (UTC)
I've been listening to the Hamilton soundtrack nonstop this month. I was resisting listening to it because I thought "Hmph. How good can it be?" Pfft."

Well, turns out pretty amazing. After the first time I listened to it the whole way through, I was bawling my eyes out while fast-walking around my neighborhood. I imagine that was a sight!

The central theme of the musical is "who tells your story?" Obviousy, the answer to that is "those who outlive you and who cared about you." Its a sign of the impact you had on the lives of others that they feel they need to pass your story along.

This is perhaps why I found this to be such a deeply moving piece. The cumulative effect of all of the sections hit me hard. When you eulogize somebody its impossible to separate them completely from the other people that person impacted - almost none of us live in isolation. Your Nanna clearly was a special woman who made a huge impact on her world and this piece was a very moving memorial.

This spoils the entire Hamilton play (its the final song) and might not have the same emotional impact when it separated out from the rest of the piece. Its the final song. I encourage you to listen to the whole album at some point.

( 15 comments — Leave a comment )