the halls are long, for skipping
the strollers large and slow
the gift will go unnoticed, diapers
to put in the closet
lots of ladies here, in curls
only the little one wears new patent leather
shoes and a dress with a sash.
she dances on the end of her mama’s hand.
they pass the big kitchen;
two people to a plate, one to spoon
one to swallow, everything fits
into its place, just like home.
mama and grammy show her
the grandmother. round and soft,
the grandmother wants to see her
but looks past and touches her hair.
they go for a walk, back down
the long hall. grammy pushes the stroller,
the grandmother sits. mama smiles
a secret she feels wiggling in new shoes.
grammy wants a song.
grammy got a song just a few minutes ago
coming here—she shouldn’t be so greedy.
but mama’s secret says please so she remembers–
“say say oh play mate, come out”
“and play with me,” the grandmother says
claps hands, “and bring your dollies three,
climb up my apple tree”
four gray-curled heads
remember the rainbarrel, “slide down my cellar door”
clap-criss clap-cross “and we’ll be jolly friends”
six more appear from corners, “forever more”
they do ABCs and row your boat
she says her poem “up jumped the scarecrow”
until one lady asks nicely, let’s do playmate
again, and they do, and pair up for the clapping.
it’s enough for a day; the little one
kisses the grandmother goodbye
and dances away at the end of mama’s hand.
distances lengthen as all the girls settle for nap.
the sun bakes today,
and memories of winter are fickle
how we begin helpless to fight for warmth
how ultimately, much later, we give in
she will remember the song
in a large place with children’s things.
what child they remembered, were, had, knew, lost,
how years were, but weren’t, no one will ask