Poetry & Writing

sample image

What My Grandfather Sang

When the house is empty, the rooms fill

with his voice, drifting in

like air conditioning. Walk to the corner

of the street, pick up an orange.

He is singing his life. He sang when I was a child

to soothe me back to sleep. I used to watch

the night light flicker, his silhouette resting

against the beige burlap drapes

as he pulled on his trousers.

The streets are good. The orange sweet.

The sun wasn't up yet, but it didn't matter—

he was going blind, could only see

the unsettled blur of cups

and counter on the days he worked.

I've seen the half dollar stuck

between his teeth, watched them close

the bronze casket lined with wool blankets,

the black satin wreath and paper money burning

into the afterlife. Now, his picture is suspended

in the corner of the dining room,

smiling over the altar. His blind eyes

watching over our every meal.

When the house is empty, I can hear

the wood creak beneath the rug,

his heavy footsteps, the slap and shuffle

of leather slippers sticking to tile,

when he walks into the kitchen.

The streets are good. The orange sweet.

I wonder when it will pass,

when I will stop sitting up alone at night

to keep this old man around me,

wanting his song, his voice to stretch

into every empty room I walk through,

wanting him to finally see me when he sings.

                                                                        Priscilla Lee

Photograph of my Grandfather probably taken in the mid-1930's

Photograph of my Grandmother and Grandfather taken in the mid-1960's