Waiting on Grandfather

Jeff Bernstein

vintage: grandmother, 1940s
Photo Credit: David Flam

For a few weeks, Grandma had a hotline to my house,
convinced she was being held prisoner
at the Hebrew Rehab Center, those
blank concrete towers hulking over JP
like a giant camped outside a medieval village.

But every now and then, she’d be back
in pre-war Baltimore and three bars
would come up on the slot machine.
Then she’d call to say
I’m waiting for Bill at the bus stop
at the corner of Light and Pratt
By the second or third call,
I could almost see my pretty young grandmother
standing there as the streetlights winked on,
dark wool dress, a week or two after
Thanksgiving, scanning the crowd as shoppers
hustled past, heads down. (He’d been gone
a quarter century or so when she told me this).

What should I have said? Was I supposed to
bring her back to the present?
Why not let her stay in a happier time?
He’ll be along pretty soon I think.
Just be patient.
(It beat the jumbled
present as she neared her own
private century mark.)
I wonder if he ever arrived.


A lifelong New Englander, Jeff Bernstein divides his time between Boston and Central Vermont. Except on summer days when his beloved (now bedraggled) Red Sox are at Fenway, he finds back roads preferable to the city. Poetry is his favorite and earliest art form (he can’t draw a whit or hold a tune). Recent poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Ballard Street Poetry Journal, Birchsong—A Poetry Anthology (Blueline Press), Best Indie Lit New England, Loch Raven Review, Main Street Rag, Muddy River Poetry Review, riverbabble, San Pedro River Review and Tipton Poetry Review. His chapbook, Interior Music was published in 2010 by Foothills Publishing. Jeff’s writer’s blog is Hurricane Lodge. Email: jbernstein[at]hurricanelodge.com

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