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.