Three poems

Poetry
Tiffany Washington


Photo credit: Sheila Sund/Flickr (CC-by)

Confession

Last Easter,
wedged between my brother (alcoholic)
and my mother-in-law (tyrant)
my grandmother decided to tell us a story—
to seek redemption in the retelling

Denouncing her past claims
that ink runs through our veins
(writing’s in the blood)
she admits Biology, not English
was her best subject

until the day
the young farm-girl version of my grandmother
maternally carried to school, a frog (extra credit)
“I didn’t know, I didn’t know,” she repeated

finally, my grandfather finished her words
concluding this story
between courses of the holiday meal

60 years later, her mind cemented
on that moment
(the scalpel and the still-beating heart)

 

Upon Remembering a College Trip to Ukraine

Babushka—hand over your face
do you worry about me now?
All American
All grown-up.
I do not make borscht like you

taught me—Saturday afternoons
for Sunday dinner.
Hot tea does not sit in a front
window-cooling as we pray.
My alphabet of tripled TTTs
and harsh straight lines lay
forgotten
folded between subway
schedules and sheet music.
I remember Katia
playing her accordion
while Ana banged the drum
and “little professor” practiced
English with us after every
performance.

Babushka—do you still ride
in the side-car of the motorcycle
down dirt roads outside the city?
How many groceries can
you fit besides you on your travels?
That summer when Sara got sick,
we did not know she would leave
her husband after only 10 years.
American aspirin and antibiotics
saved our lives—years of immunities
stored to prevent
death that too quickly came
—brought in our suitcases and on our clothes
from an airport halfway around the world

Babushka—do they still Baptize
people in the brown river,
downstream from Chernobyl?
You would not let us swim there
on hot days, fearful cancer
would seep into our skin—
But Baptisms were protected
“By God,” you told us.
Safe in the salvation
of full immersion, not that Holy
water sprinkle in an air conditioned church.

Babushka—do you stand taller
now after Dr. David straightened
spines all afternoon, while I checked
charts with names and ages?
Are your arms strong enough
to hug me like the prodigal
daughter when I return to the
country of my almost home?

Babushka—hand over your face
I do not worry for you
All Ukrainian.
Always grown-up.

 

On an Aging Mother-in-Law

Before dinner you told us
about the internship so close to death—
a summer between wills and beneficiaries,
of the “no presents” rule to protect neglectful children.

And I thought of your mother,
in the front seat,
who already declined the invite
to share our home (just in case),
disapproval trumping loneliness.

But when she made that comment,
the one removing me from all familial obligation,
I stopped feeling sorry.
And I started to understand:
her one son’s yearly Mother’s Day amnesia,
and the other’s long distance job, never a moment to call.

What I do not understand:
your eagerness to love her
and my savage desire for her approval.

pencil

Tiffany Washington is an 8th grade English teacher, mother of four, and sometimes poet. Her works have appeared in a number of print and on-line publications including Caduceus, Chantarelle’s Notebook, Artis Magazine and Long River Run. Email: tmwashington[at]yahoo.com

Print Friendly, PDF & Email