The Finding of History

[For Jessie Starkey]
As a child
There was no such thing as history
Nothing in our town had patina, texture, age
Nothing showed evidence of time long ago
The lines were straight
The streets were new
The houses breathed fresh air only
And their bricks were made recently
All this was obvious to me then
Except my “nanny”
My mother’s mother
She was time herself
Her craggy voice, the smell of her tobacco-stick case, all shiny and bumpy
So pleasing to the touch
Her voice held how many years
It carried cowboy stories like Joe the Baddy (who ate only hominy grits)
And her leathered hands of veneer lifted the collar of her permanently worn quilted dressing gown
It too smelt of time, of her
And my only desire was to bury myself in it while she laughed and coughed
She tried to defeat the advance of time that waits for us all
Her impossible jet-black hair that
Sat on top of a face that only Golda Meir and I could love
Those watery eyes depending
And the jowls of sometimes sickly kidney years hanging loosely
Her eternal warmth defied the elements like a good statue
But now I also have the walls that speak to me
In Europe I found history
In every moment my eyes are open
[Photo: Rohan Chalmers]

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