As If the Shirt Were Standing Up Straight, Hand Raised

Monday, January 14, 2019
My grandmother lights her cigarettes on the toaster’s orange electric coils, 
then slaps at the smoke like she is batting at a man or a ghost or a curtain 
nicotine-stained from exhaling all of her old years filled with smoke. 
When she parts that curtain, she watches me drape my grandfather’s clothes 
over the chain-link fence to dry in the August sun. I made the mistake of saying, 
I’m bored, so now I’m useful. 
My grandfather is driving his truck over a gravel path,
and it sounds like an arm twisting around inside a bucket of acorns. 
He is on his far-off way into the windy field to pick apples and grapes.
I want to know what it’s like out there in the acorn and apple trees, tangled 
in the grape vines as the light falls through the leaves onto my body. I imagine 
my grandfather plucking and pinching a piece of fruit between his dirty fingernails, 
muttering some old song of labor. When he tests his work with a bite and feels 
the juice running down his chin, it will make me think of the blood 
that ran down mine when he plucked a tooth from my mouth—
the way an apple sometimes needs to be turned and violently snapped
from its wet branch. My grandfather attacked most things like this.
Once the tooth was out, he slapped me on the ass and sent me outside 
to bleed for an hour, nicked up and shivering like deer legs. 
Now I’m trembling again,
beating out my grandfather’s shirt, pit-stained with circles of olive-colored sweat 
smelling of apples and grapes. I look up and wave at my grandmother, 
her face is a cloud of yellow curtain and curling smoke, and the squint in her eye 
acknowledges the fear of the wet shirt I’m holding as if the shirt were standing up 
straight, hand raised, like it was full of the body belonging to the man in the field.
Monday, January 14, 2019