Grandmother

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She walks hunched over

and has missing teeth in her smiling mouth. 

Her body is lined with the toils of years unspoken

and her face is a written epistle of burdens borne. 

We inhabit different worlds, her and I. 

Both of us getting glimpses of the exotic

people, places and things of the other world. 

From her tongue the liquid spilling over rocks 

that is her mother tongue pours forth

battering my deaf ears in hopes of understanding

but my walls are hard and it is to no avail.

So we exchange the few words we share like precious gifts

of simplicity and though she is old and we are strangers, 

her blood pulses with mine and with my fathers

and illusive dream memories speak of a time, a different time. 

A time when we shared a world and had words, 

so many words like so many sunrises 

enough to waste and pour like water in a river. 

Words that are now hidden in some deep cave in my mind, 

back in the recess of my mind where I can remember

the scent of yellow rice cooking and the aromatic scent of home. 

The gleam of her smile in the ember light of the fire, then full and white

and the feel of her leather tough palms calloused by sacrifice holding me. 

But when technology came and took me away, 

my tongue was circumcised and replaced with a new and strange tongue. 

So now I sit here across the table from my grandmother, 

her deep dark eyes pools of wisdom from years unnumbered, 

I can only guess at the contents and try to divine some meaning

as does a charlatan searching tea leaves for an answer. 

So I stumble and shift like an amateur archaeologist with no Rosetta. 

But even though we live in different worlds,

when we pause to remember from whence we came

her prune like mouth splits open and her few teeth catch the light

and her deep wise eyes dance in the light of the fire

and I remember that sometimes we don’t have to understand.

Sometimes it is enough to simply see.  

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