My grandmother’s arms looked scaled, reptilian,
soft and white underneath. I wondered why
she wore sleeveless blouses, exposing such shame
for all to see. I never thought her arms would be
mine someday: ugly, should-be-hidden things.
Relax. That’s it, about my grandmother.
I know what the famous poet said, how looking
at wind in a meadow stirs up nostalgia, and the next
thing you know, your dead grandmother’s back.
Might as well skip the wind-whipped meadow, too.
I’m too tired to invent one out of sheer air,
having lain awake for most of the night obsessing
over the years I have left. Ten? Twenty? No more
than thirty. I decided on seventeen, the number
that would make me the same age as my mother
when she got dementia. Don’t worry, I won’t
go on about her, either. I just want you to know
that if you tell somebody, I’m a poet,
and the person says, I never understood poetry,
it’s not really true. Everybody’s understood it
all along: It’s about love and death. Even when
it’s about flabby arms, another bad gene
spiraled down through the family history,
it’s about love and death. Mine, yours . . .
I lay awake for hours until the dog started
to whine. Outside, the morning star hung alone
in the sky. I thought, again, I’m going to die.
I longed to be comforted. But those who gave
such comfort are gone, and besides, the star
yielded to light. Everywhere you look, lessons.
Copyright © 2018 Lynne Knight. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in The Southern Review, Winter 2018.