Tuesday, August 09, 2005


To my grandmother, Lidija Aistars, known to us as

August 9, 2005

I wake thinking of her—my grandmother.
Today marks the day of her birth, a girl baby
born in a Baltic town smelling of sea salt,
sand scattered with the yellow glint of amber.
A quiet girl who grew into a quiet woman,
her strength needing no trumpet blasts or parades.
Patience was her strength, gentle hands,
her ever-hungering appetite for learning.
Always a book nearby. Always another one waiting.

For my grandfather, she was a woman Samson,
as strong as her hair, never knowing the sharp
edge of a blade. He tangled in it, never loosed.
Four sons. Many more children in classrooms.
She taught language like it was spun of gold,
treasure without limit, meaning of life.

His books, and shelves of books, volumes
they would read together, heads close,
or shoulder to shoulder propped on the pillows
in bed, their bedtime stories told one to the other.
His manuscripts written in longhand, a script
only she could read, his one pair
of trusted eyes, and dutifully typed,
her every keystroke an act of devotion.

Even now, these long years of their absence,
others speak to me—in awe and with perhaps
some envy—how they had watched, marveled
at the two of them entering a room
as one, holding hands, leaving the room
as one, still holding hands. She knew love.
The giving and the taking of it—a graceful dance.

My grandmother kept a bay window filled
with African violets, an indoor garden.
She kept a ceramic bowl of sunflower seeds.
A barrel of rainwater in the yard,
water dripping from the eaves,
for washing her long hair, ends at knees,
slowly unweaving the braided rope
until it was a silken curtain around her.
My grandfather watched her.

She sat in the sun, an open book
for a moment forgotten on her knees,
her face raised up to the sun.

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