my fat grandmother grinds away
at the brown wooden churn. The wattles
of her arms move in rhythm with
the clack of the heavy paddles.
I watched her then, savored the sour
smell of butter, took for granted
that a woman would work this hard
for food. Her overloaded heart held out
for years. She cooked, cleaned, bleached,
laundered, starched, ironed, mended.
Bathed eight children one after the other
in a common zinc tub. Every Sunday
she dressed up twice for church. Black dress
with the tiny white flowers, black hat
balanced atop her grey hair, wound in a bun.
In the end it was her brain, tiny vessels bursting
silently, a slow conspiracy of displacement.
My mother, Pearl, the child of disappointment
became third person to my grandmother.
My grandmother became Susan once more.
~ Diane Wahto
Diane Wahto is a retired Butler Community College English instructor. She, her husband, and three dogs live in Wichita. Her three children and five grandchildren live in Lawrence and Shawnee. Her poem “Crossing Highway 66,” will appear in Reflect and Write, a text for high school students, in spring 2013.