Conversations with My Grandmother
In a bungalow in Toronto in the late 50s, a time
for its proximity to the end of the Holocaust
a lamp breaks
Another one? Mr. Arthur, informal neighborhood
electrician asks and my Grandmother
laments how she didn’t have daughters,
not even sons,
she had tigers, twin tigers, rabid both, one
worse than the other.
There are many bungalows off Bathurst Street
they are sprouting from the fallow
of farms, inside the bungalows are families
young and bankrupt
All the yards have one proud tree, the street
infested with kids, whooping, playing road
hockey, or baseball, any number of games
lamps, bend mailboxes, smash
The mothers in the kitchens make
kidney beans, chopped liver, cow tongue, sweet
bread, listen to radio programs, smoke
whole packs on front porches
when the streetlights flicker on
and the youth scurry back like rats after the piper.
The neighborhood women feed or chase
away the stray cats, remainders of the farms.
Minnie Etkin tries to trim their whiskers, my Grandmother
dislikes her, says she’s got no
sense at all, which is the worst
thing to lack.
Grandma misses it all the time, even if TV
is better now.
Things were simpler then, she says, wist
an afghan over her sloped shoulders.
More racist. More sexist. I say. Judge Judy scolds
in the background, a jab of vocal fry
to make the defendant feel
Why is this on, I say, don’t look up
from my phone.
Because it’s easy, Grandma says.
I was taught easy was a silverfish, common,
gross, prone to lurking in dark corners, but I did not raise
twin tigers, didn’t cook liver
and the cheap meats, didn’t try
to market it so children might eat it, I do not spend
nights awake, worrying
about family in Europe, though of course
I have none left.
Instead, the luxury of quiet, no
children shout on my street, no errant ball
breaks my window. I am young, (relatively.)
I do not have the perfect clarity of retrospect.
I never knew so many worlds.
She has two houses, my Grandma says
nodding towards the screen at Judge Judy.
Who needs two houses? I say.
We shake our heads identically.
Erin Kirsh is a writer, performer, and funnyman living in Vancouver. A Pushcart Prize nominee, her work has appeared in The Malahat Review, EVENT, Arc Poetry Magazine, CV2, QWERTY, subTerrain, and Geist, where she took second place in their postcard short story contest. Her greatest accomplishment to date is the time she painted her nails without getting polish everywhere.