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Late Summer, Missouri

Blotted with blue veins, grandma’s arms prop her head
up at the oak table. Grandpa plays “Amazing Grace”
in his underwear, his hands slender as wire, his back curved
over the piano. His voice breaks as he fingers the keys
like a worn-down love, summer heat swallowing
every shadow in the room. She can’t see
his damp lashes, but she feels the way sunlight glides
like geese from the kitchen she’s known for years.
Through nights of making love on that floor, wood slats
cold on her shoulder blades. Through three babies,
days of canning peaches and killing wasps.
She longs for when they used to go dancing,
for a new purple dress and running water.
Grandpa’s anger collided with the tractor, an empty
table, his son’s cheek. He and the boys hauled hay,
planted corn and beans, slaughtered pigs. If an animal dies, toss it
in the ditch, keep moving. Get the hell out of the cattle pond, you can play
after dinner. 
She never cried in the garden. Dirt still caked
under nails, that man is mostly gone now. 
Grandma hums along to his song. Her eyes labor
to make out what’s beyond the yard.
Posted 10/21/13
This poem originally appeared in PMS poemmemoirstory Number 12.
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