by Sophia Robbins Elzie
Every morning I walk through the park at six, still dirty from yesterday’s work.
Every afternoon I walk through the park at two, dripping with dust and sweat.
At first, she is part of the landscape, blending into the trees,
like a rock crying for her dead children who was once a queen.
As I retreat further into myself, listening to the crunch of gravel beneath my feet,
she begins to emerge, the tattered edge of a floral skirt, the worn soles of sensible shoes.
The conversations she carries on with the cool morning air, the sweltering heat
of the afternoon, are a harmony accompanying
the gravel beneath my feet, the cooing of a hundred pigeons, the slap of a jogger’s sneakers
against the path, the sounds crescendoing outwards until they reach a rough fortissimo.
When it rains, the streets, unmarred by such practicalities as gutters and storm drains, become
tiny rivers that lap at my calves and fill my boots.
I wonder where she goes to stay dry, or if, like a wet cat, she sits somewhere waiting
for the heat of the Mediterranean sun to warm her.
She makes me think of my own grandmother, whose mind also traveled on a route no one else
could follow, a trajectory so different from the lines that trace airline routes,
not a gentle curve with an end and a beginning, instead a tangle of yarn,
full of Gordian knots, only I am no Alexander.
I wonder if her hands feel like my grandmother’s hands, papery skin, cold underneath.
The word for grandmother here is Yia Yia, so this is what I call her, only to myself.
I wonder what would happen if I spoke to her, gave her the bills left in my wallet before I leave
this place for the place where there is one less grandmother.
But I am small, a pinprick floating on my back in the ocean, too weary even to tread water.
There is no life preserver for me or for her out here, tousled by the wine-dark sea.
I could try to swim to her, but I would sink, dragged down by my thick tongue,
speaking words she could never understand even if she were able to listen.
She belongs to the green park bench just as it does to her, but
if I gave her one of my oranges, round like the sun, sweet,
would it moor her to her body?