Cleanliness is next to godliness

Southern Comfort Cleanliness is next to godliness

Grandma always said.
Most days she met me at the screen door
with a feather duster 
or our new Electrolux vacuum, 
the hose sucking my blouse.  
She said she liked her girls clean. 
She said I was coated 
with dog hairs, horse hairs, 
and God only knows what all else. 
Fixing me like a flower bouquet, 
tucking in my blouse, fluffing my bangs 
and adjusting my barrettes, 
she'd stare me down just to let me know 
I was allowed in only if she said so.

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My Grandmother's Love Letters


There are no stars tonight 
But those of memory. 
Yet how much room for memory there is 
In the loose girdle of soft rain. 

There is even room enough 
For the letters of my mother’s mother, 
Elizabeth, 
That have been pressed so long 
Into a corner of the roof 
That they are brown and soft, 
And liable to melt as snow. 

Over the greatness of such space 
Steps must be gentle. 
It is all hung by an invisible white hair. 
It trembles as birch limbs webbing the air. 

And I ask myself: 

"Are your fingers long enough to play 
Old keys that are but echoes: 
Is the silence strong enough 
To carry back the music to its source 
And back to you again 
As though to her?"

Yet I would lead my grandmother by the hand 
Through much of what she would not understand; 
And so I stumble. And the rain continues on the roof 
With such a sound of gently pitying laughter.