Impressions of a Life & Grandad’s Last Words

innifred and Louis Grimes

Winnifred and Louis Grimes (seated).

I Impressions of a Life

The withered and engraved face
framed by smooth, white walls,
crisp institutional linen moves
in rhythms as irregular and subconscious
as the rosary through her gnarled hands.
She gazes from behind a ring of cut flowers
that will certainly outlast her,
searching for my face.
My eyes she draws with a smile.
Her words I cannot erase:
“I’ll be with God soon;
I can feel it.”
And she does.
Her faith has been carved
by every movement of her life,
the faith a flower proclaims
by growing
and fading,
the faith it holds until the very end,
compressed to stone by the days,
the faith I no longer have or desire.

Missed her funeral,
I was on a train,
leaving no trace,
speeding through summer sun.

II Grandad’s Last Words

the dancers are all gone under the hill

last July granddad
bought a new Chevy
talked about
his son          (in the ground)
his wife         (in the ground)
the hay and the potatoes in the ground
his life revolving steadily around the soil

now it’s December talking
across generations
through machinery
horse and plough
horse and wagon
horse and sleigh

silence and heat
from a wood-burning
cast-iron stove

an old man in the snow
stoops to pick up firewood

as I drive away

“I’m scared
that when they put me
in the ground
the earth will be too tired
to make use of my bones.”

AGG20131208 (Redux of two poems from the 80s and 90s.)

Grimes family tombstone in Fort Augustus Cemetery, PEI

Depth Charge: Continuing with posts of poems written about Prince Edward Island and my relation to it, these poems are dedicated to the memory of my grandparents and Winnie and Louis Grimes. I was very fortunate to have known all four of my grandparents, as well as my great-grandfather. My maternal grandparents and the farm they lived on were especially central to the childhood. The Gerard Grimes on the tombstone was my uncle, killed in an accident when he was 17 years of age.  The epigraph on Grandad’s Last Words, “the dancers are all gone under the hill,” is from T. S. Eliot’s East Coker.


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