V  P  R

Contemporary Poetry and Poetics





With a poker face in her compact,
Grandmother opens to my knock—
"shave and a haircut, add a deuce."

Three Sunday school sisters sit in.
They give odds on the Hospital List:
double-or-nothing pneumonia wins.

I have to shuffle and deal for them.
Their arthritis makes all cards wild,
but each cuts the deck like a queen.

"I'm making him win his inheritance
in nickels and dimes," she wisecracks,
while she draws to an inside straight.

At eighty-nine she can play the game,
knows the odds of drawing better cards
than the hand you were dealt, and yet . . .

she was raised not to fold on principle.
When we replay the round all face-up,
I teach her a few tricks to take the pot.

As I stand to go, Grandmother springs.
Her head hits me halfway up my chest
and her frail embrace bruises my ribs.

I whisper "Let me go, old girl."  She holds.

© by Joel McCollough


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