Emma, 1951

by Cathy Larson Sky

Grammy, her name back then: the unsmiling one.
Cord looped round the maple bed knob, a safety
pin securing plastic buzzer to pillow slip.

Summons, mystery. Wooden commode, shadowed
in a dim corner of the bedroom.

The sadness about Grammy a quiet thing. Motes
drifting through light from high attic windows.

Made to kiss her, fearful, I inched toward a withered cheek. The eyes turned to me, clouded.
Kindness lurking.

On the gold-leaf patterned Singer, her daughter, my grandmother, Munner, made soft smocks for
Grammy. Pale grey chintz with roses.

. . .

Doorbell. Small windows, spy holes, stacked on either side of the tall front door, child - height.
Sunday afternoon callers: white-haired, black clad sisters. Witches.

Black mesh veiled wan, warted faces. Dresses reeked mothball.
(Munner admired fabrics. Crepe, she murmured, Bombazine.)

Visitors rustled toward Grammy’s rocker.
Tender greetings, whispers, Emma.
Boney fingers reached forth.

(A walking cane resting on the horse hair sofa. Time, slipping backward.)

I was buttoned into my little coat, carted off to the zoo.

Cathy Larson Sky, an Irish traditional fiddler, divides her time between music and writing. Since moving from Chapel Hill to Spruce Pine, North Carolina in 2007 she has found kinship and inspiration within the Asheville writing community, as well as with Eve’s Night Out, a group of women writers who meet monthly in Burnsville.

About Emma, 1951—Part of a longer poem, this excerpt is an exploration of memory and ancestors, in particular my great-grandmother Emma, whose velvet dinner dresses have always fitted as if tailored for me.