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My grandmother and grandfather and cousin and her girl are here visiting, on the one day we have before taking twelve stinky kids to Ashland for the Shakespeare festival. I’ve written a poem for Grandpa Jack, about the bison he sculpted by hand, but I haven’t yet written one for my Grandma Stan. She was named Stanlee, after an uncle who died a month or two before she was born into a family of fifteen kids. She was the sixteenth, and then her mom died in a gun accident when Grandma was two. The kids were split up and she was raised by her older sister, Irene. She is the hardest working woman I know, and the greatest role model in this green earth. She will outlast us all, I’m pretty sure. Here’s a poem for Grandma Stan:

The Chickadeedeedee

Your legs are strong enough, at eighty, to maintain a full garden of many blossoms, to fill the bird feeders with the correct seed, to climb steep hills and dig in dark earth. You worry about your eleven goldfish swimming in the outside tub, and about the health of your six children and sixteen grandchildren and umpteen great-grandchildren, who are all well-versed, because of you, in the language of the chickadee. It’s a big and lasting legacy you leave, Stanlee of the prairieland, grand mother of the big and truest faith, more heeding than most men of cloth, with more strength in your prayers than all the loose believers who fake their kneeling, I learned all my prayers from you, via your daughter, who taught me to ask help, just plain old help from the stars, and that is the prayer you taught me, through her. The faded pictures in the albums of you knee-deep in the strong waters, with a rod in your hand, this is how I learned about the strength of women. You had six children before I even thought of it, and I can only guess at the fear of it, I can only guess at the newness of fuzzbald babies and recipes and cars and, in our family, airplanes and tundra, oh, I can only guess at your bravery in face of the fear, and I can only guess at the mettle of your prayers, late-night and heartfelt, some naked, some grinding into the kneel, some robed and tearstreaked, but all belonging. When I will remember you, at the time I have to, I will remember sound the rusty swung bird in the spring and the “chickadee dee dee dee dee”.

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Oh, my grandma rocks. Happy Sunday, poemfriends. Call your grandmas, if you have the chance.

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