W. D. Ehrhart  

Last of the Hard-hearted Ladies

    I was always afraid of you—
other grandmothers lovingly
baked pies for grandchildren;
you kicked my ass
for leaving socks on the floor:
it made no sense—

until that day, fifteen,
and no one home but you,
I asked you for a cigarette,
and you said yes,
and talked with me all afternoon
as though I were a man,
and never told a soul.

Years later, I understood
you'd simply always seen the man
leaving socks on the floor
and coats on chairs, and all
you'd ever asked
is that I see it too.

Oh, you bitched about my hair
and my moustache, never liked
my politics: that socialistic crap—
but you grinned like the devil
when I held my ground.

I didn't say a word today
when Dad and Uncle Merv
read that stuff from the Bible
you'd scoffed at all your life,
remembering the times we'd sat
listening to the hymns in church
next door, smoking cigarettes:

they think their faith will help you,
and maybe it will, and anyway
it can't hurt—and the grief,
as least, is real.

So don't be angry with me, Grandma:
if I'd had it our way,
I'd have lit up another cigarette
and passed it to you.
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    Copyright © 1980 by W. D. Ehrhart
The Samisdat Poems, Samisdat, 1980
This poem currently appears in Thank You For Your Service: Collected Poems, McFarland & Company, 2019
Copyright © 2011 - W. D. Ehrhart - homepage
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