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August 2, 2007

“Carolyn Brown Green”

I.
I would perch on the deep green, marble counter, while
she placed the sparkling birds or delicate, round pearls,
first in one ear, then the other,
while she told me that the thing about pearls
is the more you wear them, the shinier they get.
I pressed my fingers until they formed indentations,
catching the clasp at the nape of her neck.
She asked me to, because her knuckles already buldged
like Cypress “knees” above the swamp;
besides, her nails were freshly done geranium-pink.

II.
Her maried initials were threaded through the pillow shams
of a canopy bed: elaborate soft white linen and lace, as pristinely sharp-cornered
as the collars on his shirts for nearly fifty years.

Next to the dresser, she, as a young woman, looked
back at herself, from a bone-china oval frame
chased in painted bluebells and forget-me-nots.
Her eyes were taut at the corners, her teeth
shining to match a double row of pearls
at the hollow of her throat, over the “v” of
branching collar-bones above a pale dress.
I thought her the most beautiful woman I had ever seen.

The photo must have dated from her Coker College years
of high-wasted, belted skirts, and no curlers allowed at dinner.
She had been happy and had a “steady” then,
but grandaddy wouldn’t leave her alone until she was his.

In a frame beside it, his big, pale eyes caught the light
beneath a heavy brow and a Citadel crew-cut.
Though they were no longer married by then, she still
bought him clothes at Christmas, and answered when he called
to ask what she was cooking.

III.
She would pull on the jacket to her cornflower-blue suit
when she was ready, and stick her feet,
into two different shoes, lifting the crease
of her pant leg, for a sidelong view,
always choosing some pair of less-comfortable, more-beautiful
leather heels, no matter where we were going.

She talked about Tokyo and Paris as though it was still the 1950’s
and her wordliness could never be outdated.
She always said “Italian” as though it were “Eye-talian,”
affecting an accent though she was from “right there in Trio.”
Wherever we went, people told her she was beautiful,
and I was beautiful, and so lucky to look like her.

I asked her how come she was a tomboy when she was younger,
and she said it was cause she wanted to be like her brother, Wendell.
And I asked her, after the divorce, why she didn’t change her name,
and she said it was because Green was a nicer color.

(though this poem is based on the relationship I have with my grandmother, much of it has been fabricated or altered in some way to serve the poem, largely because of the creative direction of my creative writing class peers.)

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