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Margaret B. Ingraham

No Escape


There, early in the morning, the woman—
her dyed hair red, thinning, and crimped,
her dress spring green and white, appropriate,
her sweater matching—
was urinating in the street.

She came shuffling, crouched over
and only dripping at first, then stopped,
pulled her cotton skirt around her hip,
squatted over the sidewalk like an anxious mutt,
hovered above the wetted spot
and poured all her water out.

She must have thought
she was alone.

My own grandmother
would have done the same thing
had she needed to,
had it not been for the diapers
we finally had to wrap her in.

Perhaps the stiffness in her knees,
the rigid bowing of her thin white legs
like frail boomerangs never having gone,
never coming back, moving not a step,
was our small blessing.

No more damp wing chairs cushions,
no more mirror conversations,
no more daughters, grandchildren, thoughts,
no more, no more.
It was over long before that January day
we took the diapers off.

The spring green lady’s daughter
again stands at the window waiting
and wonders if this time her mother
will be wet, or in her wedding dress,
her old nightgown, a taxi when she comes home,
or if she’ll come at all.

Leaning toward the pane
in the leaving light of day
she gazes at the skin around her wrist,
no longer smooth, and feels
the matricidal pulse, the same slow
senile blood in her arteries grow thick,
harden and turn gray, and asks herself
just who will feed her husband suppers.

There is no escape for us.
We move from city to town, marry,
question how blond daughters can be ours.
Blond, blond, brunette and red—
the colors all make gray.

The skin is not the same,
fair or freckled,
but from grandmother to mother
to daughter and daughter again,
the blood grows older,
curls around our hearts,
our veins lose faith and close,
blocking us from ourselves.

I saw my mother standing at the window
once and weeping.
She must have thought
she was alone.

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