At Fourteen


One afternoon, I was sitting cross-legged
on the kitchen linoleum, cracking black walnuts
for something to do. Cast iron mortar, pestle,
little four-posted castle, little jagged scatter
of shells on the floor, nutmeats in a blue bowl.

My doll-sized grandmother, her thin yellowed hair
held close with tortoiseshell combs, was perched
on a red dinette chair, her feet not reaching
the floor. The chair’s chrome legs,
bent at the knees like prayer.

I felt her eyes on me.  So rare.

Brindled light it must have been that filtered
down through the crochet of houseplants
on the windowsill over the sink, doily of light
that rested on my head.

You have pretty hair, the sun on it like that, she said,
her old voice wavery as water
from a downspout after rain.  Praise!
Gift she’d never before given.
Then, My hair used to be that color, too,
took it back again.