Light Enough To See

With grandma, there was always a god
who balanced karmic echoes with miracle and punishment,
and spoke to her with a familiarity that came
from decades of negotiation and compromise. After all, 
the day grandpa died, who made sure the rains stopped
so the buses could get to the village on time.
I had no time to cry, she used to say,
I was so busy praying.

I liked her god, but had never wanted him for myself,
until the phone rang years later,
in a place too far away for those buses to reach.
When I stopped crying I prayed that someone
had been there to hold her hand when she died,
that her god had stuck to whatever deal they had made
whatever she had offered him
to take away the pain.

On the flight home, I remembered a story she used to tell
in a torrent of missing teeth and loud cackles
about a foolish man who had dropped his ring in the dark
but was looking for it under a distant streetlamp
where there was light enough to see. Even god, she said,
shook his head in despair.

I could see her shaking her head up there, her god now
firmly by her side. Growing up, I had lost them all in the dark,
grandma, the man, his ring, even her god,
and now too late, too foolish, sitting in her chair, surrounded by
her absence, I searched for miracle and punishment
in a far away light.

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51 thoughts on “Light Enough To See

  1. There are so many ways old relatives remain with you after they have gone. Your poem is so beautiful and hopefully someone will talk about me this way.

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  2. This is a stunning depiction. The reader gets inside the characters, feels them, experiences life through their eyes. You have a gift…perhaps you could write a novel on this theme – really!

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    1. Thanks Sherry πŸ™‚ It is a popular folktale about a king who asks his minister to find the 10 most foolish people in his kingdom… not sure if there is some version of it told in other countries as well…

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    1. Thanks Elizabeth…that is really why I could connect with this folktale and wanted to include it in a poem…it seemed relevant, both from a general and personal perspective. India has a rich culture, a treasure trove of folktales and it is interesting to see how many still bear messages and wisdom for the present time.

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  3. I love the story within the story within the story, making the present character live in me. I had a grandmother with the same certainty as the one who died here–certain of atheism, and then at 102, certain she would be with her husband and son and nephew again. I miss both of her, all of her. Thank you. I will not look for her in lamplight . . .

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  4. This is incredible. These sections hit me the hardest:

    “I had no time to cry, she used to say,
    I was so busy praying.”

    “When I stopped crying I prayed that someone
    had been there to hold her hand when she died,
    that her god had stuck to whatever deal they had made
    whatever she had offered him
    to take away the pain.”

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