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ELEGY FOR MY GRANDMOTHER / Nicholas Christopher Now you're in the place where the shadows fly, light-years away from this palm forest— the room I've taken overlooking the Caribbean, parrots squawking at the stars and coconuts thudding to earth. At your old house the garden lies barren; lightning split the cherry trees, black vines choked the azaleas. You were famous for your green thumb. Neighbors brought you their ailing plants, and after a week on your terrace the puniest amaryllis turned prodigy. Your bags were always packed: you loved to travel first-class, to sail south at the earliest sign of winter. I have a photograph of you in prewar Havana wearing a white coat and feathered hat after a day at the races, gazing to sea (these same flashing waters) from the casino balcony. I remember you were cursed with eyesight so sharp it daggered migraines through your temples. Once, driving in the country, you glanced at a distant forest— a blue band across the hills— and counted the crows on a single bough. You were first onto the dancefloor when the music started—and last to sit. Before I could read, you taught me poems and riddles, and those intricate parables with the quirky endings— your own variations on some theme. You knew the real theme is always death, UO · The Missouri Review and when I was ten you explained it to me: one is on an enormous ship (lush gardens lining the decks) gliding over a white sea that never ends. There is no horizon, no sun or moon: the air is purest light. The portholes are mirrors, full of glittering expanses. Somewhere on board an orchestra is playing beautiful music, but no one can find the musicians . . . Now that you're a passenger on that ship, sailing and sailing into the light, are they playing for you on a dancefloor strewn with flowers, and is the music really so beautiful? Nana, this was your way of telling me you would never come back. Nicholas Christopher THE MISSOURI Review · 111 ...


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