Carrie Greenlaw

When I was four
my grandma brought home
poinsettias in plastic shrouds,
grocery store logos
around their merry necks.

They will catch a cold and die
if they are out in the snow

she told me,
and I knew sick meant
puking in a wastebasket
but death
was something new.
I thought about the word,
hid under my mother's desk
and cut my hair
with sewing scissors.

The poinsettias
languished a dark month
atop her dresser
next to the statue of Mary
that rose
like the antenna
on the Sears tower.

Far below we slept
on two twin mattresses
pushed together
like sailors aboard
two storm-sick dinghies,
riding out the rain.

The last time I took her
out to lunch
she wore a plastic rain bonnet
over her thin perm
and ordered half a sandwich.

Waiting for coffee
we stumbled through
her half-deaf smalltalk,
the folded rain hat
sitting like a silverfish
on her pocketbook.

There are nights now
when I dream about her
and nights when I don't
there are nights
when I move
around the dark house
like a phantom

that word still
squatting in my brain
like some fat,
unknowable toad
laying eggs in
my throat.

Carrie Greenlaw is a poet and artist residing on the North Side of Pittsburgh. Her work has been featured in The Pittsburgh Poetry Review, River & South Review, Masque & Spectacle and several upcoming publications. She believes in living low and living slow.

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