Grandmother at Christmas
 
The old lady said
that with the chimes
it was like heaven
come down to earth,
and you had to be kind 
and agree
because she was kind
and was your grandmother.
But secretly you cursed
those Baptist bell-ringers
and were thinking not of heaven
but the Hardy Boys,
the new mystery she'd brought you
as an early Christmas present.
She wrote elegant longhand,
addressed her letters Master Luke
and spoke like her letters,
frail and didactic.
Once when you said
you hated your brother
she whispered, 
being expert 
in that subject:
"The only thing 
we must ever hate 
is the Devil . . ."
But you were more intent
on the blue lace of veins 
around her neck
or a peek at her false teeth.  
She frowned at the box
your mom had labeled 
"X-mas"
and in her willowy voice 
told you
it was sacrilege.
Christmas was anticlimactic.
Two days before,
you donned the baldy wig,
draped yourself in a sheet
and paraded up the street
with a walking stick.
Your brother Matt
pulled her to the icy window
and said that Buddhist monks
had invaded the neighborhood.
What she really believed :
that was all you wanted to know-
like the Hardy Boys
so clever at crimes.
But the mystery 
of how she 
had become you
left too many clues 
that made you turn away:
her breath like sour buttermilk,
her adjustable back-brace
and all her mock-innocence
like a circus beast.
The Christmases are 
pressed and brown,
tied together like
a stack of old letters.
And you have become
this writing I.
So forgive me now
if I turn back,
having heard the chimes,
and see before me
grandmother
like the ghost of christmas past
waiting still
for heaven to come down.
 

 

 

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