Letter to an Unmet Grandmother

by Kathleen Lynch

Kathleen Lynch

They said there was nothing of yours left
but I found a black & white under the lining
of a rat-gnawed jewelry box. Until now you existed
only in stories, the hardest one the slow-leaked
secret about your suicide. First, I thought you look
too strong for someone who would do that, but
I know deep things are never that simple, and guess
it’s more about luck, or something nameless.

Now I’m a grandmother myself—Maga to our flourishing
boys. I’ve seen seven decades of family history unreel
with its tangles and splices. But as a child I believed
that if only I’d known you, if you’d waited for me
to come along, I’d have been able to charm or cheer you
out of it. I’d pretend we’d come to visit, and you’d rush us
with your wide embrace, and somehow I’d be the one
who would end up on your lap, and you’d untwine my
waist-long braids, brush and brush until my hair
rose up electric to meet your hand.

That dream’s behind me now, but the afterlife of its wish
burrowed in as if it had come true. I will say this: I love
knowing that once you carried my mother in your body,
and she was born with half of me in her, and that means
in a way I lived in you once, like a picture waiting in an
undeveloped roll. And the dog in the photo — your dog
I suppose. How gently you lean to the mutt, offer a treat
from your apron. I can almost see you ruffle her fur
in the next frame; almost hear you coo, Good girl, good girl.

Last updated April 02, 2023