Lit, Lit Poetry

Grandfather by Olivia Punch

You came to the house
with the rest of the family,
sporting your usual smile
white, fixed dentures.

The moist air snuck in with you
as the sun gently melted
into the maple trees.

You carried a mass of palm fronds
in your left hand, loosely gripped,
aware of their fragile state.

Your plaid shirt wore
stains from the past few days,
unwashed and aging
tucked into your buckskin
belt and khaki pants.

You pushed your Catholicism
upon me without my permission
but your wisdom
made everything

Thin skin covered
your hands and kept my attention
as you slowly spread the palm leaves out,
demonstrating how to construct a cross
out of plants.

I could never follow along,
no matter how slow you went,
no matter how patient.

My sisters and I gathered around
as you sipped your black coffee
and we waited to be instructed.

Mom tended the kitchen
while you stole our attention
and turned our time
into lessons.

You preached to us the family
but I didn’t care.
I cared about you,
my God.

Your fingers were smoothed
over with time worn scars
yet still capable of creation.

A workingman’s retired hands
now taught young grandchildren
obedience and craftsmanship.

My crosses were frayed,
sticking out in places that
were supposed to be smooth, but
you waited.

You fixed each
and every one
of my mistakes.

By the end of your visit
you would leave us
with a table full
of crosses

I had nowhere to store them
besides the catacombs
of my closet.

My mother always reminded me
of your limited time
left with us

to enjoy it
while it lasted. So,
I listened.

I kissed you goodbye on the front
porch while the crickets swallowed
what was left of the night.

I would have built crosses
with you until palms were ragged;
until the sun came back around.
But you left me.

You left like your crosses,
in a fragile state
and tucked in.