Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Tuesday Poem: "Ruby's Magic"

"You can live too long," my grandmother says
and, hovering in the wings of her hundredth year,
few know it better than she.
Her body is a framework of sparrow bones
encaging the heart of a lion,
a heart that stirs with savage music in mutiny to her wishes.
A life lived in service is loath to become a burden.
My mother, steeped in a mantle of Irish Catholicism, says
it rattles her faith to see Grandmother
visited by torments she does not deserve.
My father who loves her like his own mother
remembers her as a woman who lived without complaint
now that physical pain and mental anguish
drive her beyond her character.
My aunts are two sides of a triangle weakened by the third,
playing down the struggle that ages them too soon
and plying her with love to ease the bitter passage
to the banks of the Styx.
And I, her grandson, with a throat full of lumps
and a head full of happier times,
look at my grandmother not as a rheumy-eyed woman
with thin hair and threadbare skin,
but the grandma I shared a room with,
standing true as the kauri of her house
before her mirror at bedtime.
Her fingers not gnarled but deft as they unleashed
a cascade of thick, white tresses
and the sparkle in her eye as she told me stories
to the rhythm of her brushstrokes.
As a child, my grandmother had magic and mana to me,
and no matter how fate and time erode her,
nothing can strip the magic from our hearts.

The poet wishes to acknowledge The National Poetry Foundation (UK) in whose anthology this poem first appeared.


  1. A lovely poem resonant with memories for me, as well. Thanks for it.

  2. Andrew, this is such a sad, compelling, heartfelt poem---and despite the sadness a real tribute to your grandmother. May her release come soon.

  3. Oh, sorry, Helen. I should explain that I wrote this poem in 1986 and my Grandma Ruby died in November 1987 aged 100 years and some 3-4 months old.

    When I'm posting a poem each Tuesday on TP, I sometimes have to rely on my back catalogue. Or am I lazy bugger and all the other Tuesday Poets write a fresh, new poem every week? (Envy them big-time if they do.)

    Anyway, Helen, you'll be pleased to know that my Grandma Ruby lived a long and generally happy life and was only reduced to lesser activity when she fell and broke her hip at age 96 or 97 (I can't remember exactly when). So she had 3 or 4 years of "chafing at the bit", but overall hers was a pretty good existence and she was well-loved. And who can ask for more than to be well-loved?

    You obviously have a big heart, Helen. God bless you for it.