Nabakov’s Limes

by Abigail McFee 

My grandmother in the kitchen

trains her brown eyes on me

smile abbreviated by oxygen tubes

that fade in the dappled sunlight:

remember, she says, we are safe

as long as we are not being sexual.

This is not eighth grade health class.

She is speaking

of the heart. Of women’s hearts

most vulnerable of organs.

Capable of being misled,


I do not say: once

I believed you, and I rested

on no’s like car tires

not questioning the weight

placed on them.

I want to say: Grandma,

we are never safe.

In this kitchen, on this June

afternoon your cigarette-scorched

lungs are heaving air through

feathery tubes, and I am sitting

across from you speaking of

Nabokov, of the girl

he rode his bicycle to meet

at night in the lime grove, casting

his own lantern light,

and I too am wending my way

into future heartache, with too

many literary references, while

across the country a boy remembers

the flatness of my body

and in California your ex-lovers rest

beneath slabs of granite.

Nabokov could never

see her waiting for him,

at the end of all those winding paths.

He moved forward in the darkness

buoyed by the thought of touching

her rain-damp, moonlit face.