Even more poetry

Inheritance Retired, my grandfather chewed his frijoles like a camel, His large jaw churning, His tortilla a napkin at the edge of his plate. He ate alone, or nearly alone, A parakeet the size of a swollen thumb Glancing in a mirror. When the parakeet rang its bell, Grandfather moved his camel head and scolded, "Shaddup." The bird was not his, But grandmother's, hall shuffler in pink slippers, Whipper of rugs and work clothes, Beautician dying her hair black on shadow-cold mornings. Nights, grandfather sat in his recliner With the thorn-sharp doily on his neck. He sat while the TV shuffled light in his face And the radio plugged his ears with mariachis. In the kitchen, the washer shivered a load of whites, Plates rattled, black tea rolled its knuckles in a sauce pan. When the telephone rang its loud threats, He turned his camel head and shouted, "Shaddup!" He wanted the peace of a green lawn, lost at dusk, And a summer burst of tomatoes and squash on whiskery vines. He believed in water, water of morning, And of night, sprinklers sighing on the curb strip. He knew how summer heat suckled trees and lawns. This worried him, How it all could dry up, Life included, dry up in the time you turned your back And flicked a grain from under a fingernail. Grandfather rose late, The day already sobbing heat in the garden. He sliced a lemon and in the bathroom Rubbed its sweet acids under his arms, The scent that would follow him through the day. The squeezed lemon collapsed into a frown, And he was ready. Ready for what? He ate And drank coffee, his mouth pleated on each deep sip. He studied his roses, the wicked queens of his garden, And raked puckered oranges into a herd Of croquet balls. "Keep things green, mijo," He repeated to me of life. In the flower bed, water surged into the volcanic peaks Of ant hills, the silt as fine as gold. Grandfather was a simple man, a work-worn camel With a busy jaw. Our inheritance was a late afternoon With my small hand under his, the garden hose splashing For the good of the living. - Gary Soto

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