MY GRANDMOTHER TOLD US JOKES
like the one about the man who
walked down the street
& turned into
There was some secret in the moment
of that turning—when he was one thing,
that I return to again & again.
The day she stopped being
grandma & turned into
The day my sister stopped being
& never came back. Perhaps there
was an instant between her sweet sleep
& the moment the fever struck,
from which she could have been plucked.
Do not make that turn, I want to say to the man
who becomes the drugstore; to the woman
who dies insane; to my sister;
to the boy who became an adult
the moment the cell door slammed shut.
I want to freeze-frame each instant of turning,
unfold in slow motion the moment of callous
change. Perhaps the secret’s in the man’s
intention; in the list in his pocket of mundane
nostrums he was sent to fetch home.
Or perhaps I’ve got it wrong,
perhaps there’s a soda fountain where they all sit—
the man, my grandmother, my sister, the boy—
& drink nickel root beer floats, look back
on that fateful turn, and laugh among themselves
at the rest of us, who took it all so seriously.
—from Rattle #25, Summer 2006
Tribute to the Best of Rattle
Richard Beban: “I came to Casablanca for the waters, and to poetry for the money. In both cases, he says, he was misinformed.”