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A Grandmother Listens

She is a bird in song with whole consonants flying out of the cave of her tiny mouth, the tones airborne like a floating leaf. She hands me a pink bear, and with it comes language not yet molded into comprehension, but I listen carefully like one does on a forest walk. You can see understanding in her eyes as clear as a bell ringing from a cathedral. “Shake it, Alta,” her father says when referring to a small plastic jar with something loose inside. “Shake it real hard.” And she does suddenly back and forth with amusement. Her two blond pigtails stick up in the air. One hour you hold her head in your palm the day she first cries in the world and you try on the sound of her name. Then here she is with her new inflections of cadence and pitch. Words and sentences will follow. Whole paragraphs will arrive too like cries of a loon on a lake. She will gather these utterances and lean toward us, a testimony to joy. Someday we will hear her invoke the dark green of her parents’ garden, the stutter in her beloved brother’s voice, the quiet noise of the dog licking her face, the squeals after getting the square wooden block in the right hole. I turn toward her. I am all ears.

1. essay in Waxwing Magazine, spring 2018, "Distinguished Member of the Regiment"

2. essay in Solstice Literary Magazine, spring 2018, "Come Home in Glory"

3. poem in Stone Canoe, spring 2018. "Geometry Class"

4. Essay "Saudade" in Post Road, 2018