Emily Nalevanko Pollak

The Hands of My Grandmother

He spent his days
in a well-appointed room
that wasn’t his home
His curio cabinet and daily visits
grew a gallery of guilt like a fungus 
on the red-eyed duck fountain splashing in the corner
On the dresser, a pile of apathetic angels
reeked of disinfectant 
A cardinal chimed the hour 
from the bird calls clock on the wall
The woman down the hall,
did he think she was you
when he kissed her on the mouth? 

You always kept a caged canary
In the morning you’d find it 
dead among the newspaper shreds
a yellow jewel you could finally hold
Around your feet: a parade of small dogs,
terra-cotta army of potted plants,
baker’s dozen of children,
scores of grandchildren,
handful of great grandchildren,
your own mother grabbing as much 
food as she could with both hands 
There were times, I’m sure, 
that you didn’t like any of them  

You never wanted to be a burden
Don’t fuss you’d say 
adjusting the volume on the police 
scanner one more time 
Your constant moving hands
clicking needles intertwining endlessly 
the same length of yarn

At the end he knew and never forgot 
that everything in his life was made 
with your body, with your hands
even though he learned it too late
or learned it and forgot
only to find it again

In the morning he’d find you 
dead among the covers
your hands once more your own