Ironing Grandmother’s Tablecloth
by Jane Kenyon
As a bride, you made it smooth,
pulling the edges straight, the corners square.
For years you went over the same piece
of cloth, the way Grandfather walked to work.
This morning, I move the iron across the damask,
back and forth, up and down. You are ninety-four.
Each day you dress yourself, then go back to bed
and listen to radio sermons, staring at the ceiling.
When I visit, you tell me your troubles:
how my father left poisoned grapefruit on the back
porch at Christmas, how somebody comes at night
to throw stones at the house.
The streets of your brain become smaller,
old houses torn down. Talking to me
is hard work, keeping things straight,
whose child I am, whether I have children.
You can find this poem in the collection Otherwise by Jane Kenyon.