That summer in the bungalow, Grandma grips
the things in her domain: cast-iron skillet, spatula, a carton
of double-yolked eggs. My nose at her elbow,
I watch shells split on the rim, conjoined suns
whisked to a single promise. The pan
pops with grease, bacon flecks in the scramble.
(Black walnuts fall around us,
still in their shell’s shell. The creek rushes with thaw.
Chubby with grin, Grandpa kitzels me:
catch a minnow with your hands.
I’m an Iroquois hunter snatching trout,
up to my knees in cold flow).
Chessboard between us, I learn my moves: slanted bishop,
aggressive castle, sly knight, sacrificial pawn.
He warns, trust no one, not even the girl across the field.
(I sneak to the abandoned tennis court
to meet her. We throw rocks at the ripped net, dig up
arrowheads, find a wallet with two twenties.
We each take a bill. Like a captain in the Cossack’s army,
Grandpa marches to her house,
on a mission to take back what’s ours).
Rain jabs the tin roof. A real soaker
overflows the water barrel, banks days
of good flushes, even a hairwash. I find
my father’s books and tsotchkes: three monkeys
frozen in jade – hear no evil, see no evil, speak
no evil. I roll those chimps in dirty underwear to smuggle home.
(On the ride back I chew gum,
watch it all go – her palm on my cheek
before sleep. Miles ahead a red fruit turns
on a pole, the Big Apple cafeteria the stop
for pie and Grandma’s annual lesson
in papering the toilet seat).

from Connotation Press: An Online Artifact,, December 2010