Chinese porcelain with a silver rim
vining blossoms clamber, indigo
and orange. Nana Tony, kept it in
her line of sight from the chair where she used to sew.
She filled it with dahlias in late summer, marigolds
in June, chrysanthemums in fall, prized, and full –
of memories of her Chinese friend. It holds
for me memories of Nana, trim and small;
wearing her lacy bed-jackets in bed
first thing in the morning, when we visited.
A jewelry box of old greeting cards she saved
for me – we rearranged and cut and pasted.
Her bowl passed down, crowned my dining room.
Then a glass of flowers broke in my hand and fell
and shattered its bottom and cracked it through.
I did my best with glue to make it whole.
But I could never get the last piece to fit.
Always shy, Nana Tony at last was afraid to go out.
Grandad did all the errands. Her redoubt
was home and garden – the fence containing it.
I remember her brown, squat little hats, pulled down,
over her dark eyes, tweed coats that seemed to swallow
her narrow bones, brogues and thick seamed stockings, so
that she’d seem to fade into the drab of the town.
She was his porcelain princess, a plain farm girl,
immensely kind, not-much-schooled and nervous,
good-humored, a bit baffled by the world,
took the weekly flowers down to church by bus.
Grandad adored and shielded her, his child-bride
rescued out of a difficult household, not much more
than a boy himself back then, soon off to war.
We were overseas by the time she died
–cancer the doctor never told her of.
He nursed her at home. I think of the pelican
said to so cherish its chick, it tears the fluff
of its own breast for blood to feed it on.
Such a mystery, the lives of those around us
when we are small. I keep a cracked bowl
that no one will want after me, with a hole
in the bottom, full of love only I, now, recall.