Tess Taylor: Landscape

My grandmother taught me it is always
Margaret we grieve for.

I watch her sleep, catheter in.
When she’s awake she’s partly here, leapfrogging.

into lacunae of pasts, poor Elly who Emeline took in
despite having 12 children already, the mountain doctor

the day she prayed that God not take Nancy.
He took a chicken for his pay.

Me here and my engagement making her so happy.
I told Taylor, listen. Please remember this.

Now, she’s the color of old cheese above her sheets,
Without that half-imperious, half-charming way

she cajoles her doctors –
just feet against blankets in their socks.

This October, in her apartment I was 8 again.
I hate death, I say to anyone who’ll listen. As if it’s

Yet to lose it all, the way she flirted
out of Appalachia to marry a professor,

hosted dinners, quoted Frost and Austen.
Her stories garbled into farming towns

she knows they are gone. Memory alone, now rooting
world through time, providing scope, the windows

into detail, dialect, poems she holds bound
in the mind like smooth stones for caressing –

ballads mixed with bits of spirituals, an eglantine
digressive and disorderly as any attic: her hallelujah by
and by.

I listen now, I sift through her wreckage,
clinging to what leafmeal fields I can.

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