Colm has her cheeks. So do I.
I wrote this poem in 2000, when she was first diagnosed and being treated for esophageal cancer, which claimed her life a few years later. I love you, Muma. Happy Birthday.
You told me it was the depression that brought you together;
You took the bus to work each day,
stood on the corner in your stockings and heels,
auburn hair coiffed, hands gloved. He saw you
as he pumped gas; looked for you every morning,
ignoring customers to watch you
disappear up the stairs, the winged doors
wrap around you and take you away.
You told me he was afraid
the morning would come when you didn’t.
I can just hear him fumbling, bumbling:
“My name is Bernie…It is a pleasure.”
I can just feel his hand shaking inside yours, pressing
warmly with his thumb, not wanting to let go.
“That is how I became your grandma,” you said.
You told me this
seventy years later, as you lie
with seventy years worth of medical discoveries
pumping through your veins,
so much data and collective evidence, your
cells might as well be graphs; numbers
instead of blood swim through your capillary-charts.
You told me all of this in private,
but as he walked into the room, eyes so big,
so red, more scared than a lost child’s,
I knew, he too, was thinking about that time:
watching you climb the tall bus stairs,
your heel slipping out of your dark shoe.
Standing in that room, your hand pressed
in both of his, he felt the same terror
choking his heart, as if he were watching
those wing-doors swathe around you,and take you away.