Grandma, 1919-1993

By Peiris, T. M. | Hecate, January 1, 1999 | Go to article overview

Grandma, 1919-1993


Peiris, T. M., Hecate


grandma, 1919-1993

i You are twelve

and overhear your bisexual mother

planning to run away in the night

with her lesbian lover

we'll wait till she's asleep

and we'll go

someone else will

take care of her

but you say no

you kick up enough

adolescent fuss

that they abandon their plans

instead of you

they stay

and you sleep easy.

ii Your daughter is twelve

and you spend

long days in bed

post-natal depression

doesn't exist in the 1950s

hasn't been discovered yet

you administer

a natural antidepressant

eating chocolate

a luxury

a medicine

to be kept hidden

from the sweet-toothed

children

your daughter hears

the wrappers

the sound of foil

unfurling

she comes to your bedroom

pretends not to see you

stuffing chocolate bars

inside the pillow slips.

iii They named you joy

and sorrow

christened you Gloria Dolores

and there began

a battle for you

living up to your name

happiness and grief

fencing for your soul

you drank too much

you toyed with death

psychiatry caught up with you

the diagnosis

came through

clinical

depression

treatment varied

ultimately, failed you

and I am in awe of a woman

who spent the last

forty years of her life

with this intangible pain

who became cynical

(a survival tactic)

who would steam open

doctors' letters

the referrals

the reports, after

the consultation

I have a right to know, you said

and when you died

you left a poem for us

solace, in the top drawer

and when I learnt of your death

and knowing all that came before

I felt relief

your painful game, over

those years of suffering closing

into a long sleep, granted

I felt grief

you were brave

it hurt, you hurt

yet despite the pain, humour

in your lungs

had kept you breathing

your courage shook me

and then you left me. …

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