This poem is about my grandmother Flora Lawrence and a picture I took from her.
You were fitted into your usual corner of the couch (the devenette, you always called it),
eyes knitting sights of Television, of Lawrence and Joyce fixed in front
of Dino, the computer from another decade, of Mom braiding a new set
of weave into Shantinese’s hair, possibly asking silently why a four-year-old
needed such a drastic makeover—once a week, you may add.
You were somewhat startled when my brother Joe slammed my deck of Uno cards
cuz Choo defeated him three games in a row. The winner laughed and his young
opponent failed to see the humor. Neither did Mom, who caught Joe hoarding
Wild Cards under his feet.
This one-bedroom dorm never harbors crowds: it’s often riddled with quiet,
you not noticing much, you drifting off into an ocean of thought,
waves cradling your body back and forth, engulfing you, rescuing you from
boredom and slumber. But on this day, you were aware, entertained by
human theater on a snowless day.
And you smiled through the scenes, Grandma—a display of
Fiery Spirit, a boy wanting to be the prime example of an ultimate
Champion, your daughter and grandson throw their heads back as laughter
escaped them, a four-year-old’s eyes droop and snap open time and again,
a mother being frustrated, wishing her youngest child was better equipped to handle
long hauls for beauty.
But then your eyes finally noticed my camera watching you, its tilted angle
controlled by my semi-artistic hand. Your wits knew your next
move would be future inspiration, so you winked and my finger pushed the
button and then it was all over, that playful nudge forever captured in gray shadiness.
That same photograph is now tacked on my wall between my The Twilight Zone
and Brokeback Mountain posters. The lack of color, its glossiness meshes
with the bumpy white wall. When my sight stops on it, my heart sees
a woman who loved my assets and discrepancies, who didn’t mind my zoning
out to outer mental dimensions. Her only concern was in front of her, sitting beside her
hearing her say “I love you” after kissing her goodnight.