Several years ago, I wrote poems about my paternal grandmother and my maternal great-grandmother, both hard-working women I admired. (Good cooks, too!) They survived troubling times and circumstances I don’t even want to imagine, and they still smiled. Well, they complained a time or two, but what I remember most is their work ethic and their humor, although my great-grandmother’s was less apt to come out to play.
Both loved this country. One grandmother became pen pals with a president and his wife, and another came from “t’ Old Country” and never lost her accent.
Therefore, in honor of those strong women, and as my own nod to my rights as an American citizen on this Election Day, I offer these poems — not high literature, just simple, blunt tributes.
Despite a generation’s haze,
her smile still shines
from the photograph,
a girl laughing,
grey head tilted,
in my grandmother’s face.
My grandmothers died many years ago. Why, then, do they still seem so alive?
Ellis Island saw her come,
and Lady Liberty lit her way
across a continent
to the logging camps
far from the Old Country,
and something hopeful grew
in the muddy ground
she slogged while cooking and washing
for sawdust-covered timbermen.
Widowhood could not uproot the dream,
nor could a daughter’s disdain.
Faith’s fruit was bittersweet,
but she dwelt beneath its branches,
leaned upon its strength,
and tilled its seeds into my soul.
There are times I still want to write them letters, or call them on the phone, or stop by for a visit. What better legacy than that?