"How can I be of help?" asks my grandmotheralways, and it's so feminine, American, the bargain
we strike with our smiles, the optimistic rudderof our native name: we can and are able, we garden,
we prospect, we gamble hope. Only there is no curefor the way her mouth hangs open now, no more jargon
on her lips, no more forming thought with the purrof words. We moisten her tongue as it hardens
a bit more with each breath. I say what I needto say beside her, then the stretch of skin tight
around her teeth ceases. The intervals grow long.No more trying to read even the briefest lead
tugging at the corners. My mother mumbles, "It's all right."But not yet, I can't, I'm unable to take up the song. [End Page 97]
Mira Rosenthal, a past fellow of the nea and Stanford University's Stegner Program, publishes work regularly in such journals as Ploughshares, Threepenny Review, Harvard Review, New England Review, A Public Space, and the Oxford American. Her first book of poems, The Local World, received the Wick Poetry Prize. Her second book of translations, Polish poet Tomasz Różycki's Colonies, won the Northern California Book Award and was shortlisted for numerous other prizes, including the International Griffin Poetry Prize. Her honors include the pen Translation Fund Award, a Fulbright Fellowship, and a grant from the American Council of Learned Societies. She teaches in Cal Poly's creative writing program.