In the next room

In one room
my grandmother begs for peace.
She cries for her mother,
screams in confusion and pain.
 
In the kitchen, he cooks dinner alone.
Smelts, fresh bread, salad, a beer.
I watch my grandfather as he moves
quiet and purposeful.
 
He fries the fish as he holds back tears.
He hears his wife cry out in pain.
His own is angry, frustrated.
He tells me,
 
“this was not supposed to happen.
This is not how I imagined the end.”
 
He sits at the kitchen table
the Steelers’ game plays in front of him
He does not notice me watching
as he drizzles hot sauce on his meal.
 
He turns, sensing me behind him,
tells me to grab a plate.
I do, knowing this is an important offering.
 
He fixes me dinner,
too many smelts than I can stomach,
salad, and bread.
I begin to eat silently next to him
 
This is his language of love.
 
He gets up suddenly
grabs a glass from the cupboard
pours half of his beer in the glass.
He hands it to me.
 
I drink. I take him in.
I say nothing. Because I know
he needs this. He needs me
to be silent with him, to eat
the food he has made
to accept what love
he has left to give.
 
To do something
anything.

T-shirt

I’m thinking of
how it felt
waking up to the sunrise
in a room that wasn’t my own.
 
I watched it rise higher
as I thought of the night before
how magic was made,
co-created with quick wit,
intimacy,
hearing the stories of
the rocks and art in your room.
 
I tried to rest,
and when sleep wouldn’t take me,
I reached across you
for the cup of water on your nightstand.
You startled awake.
 
I rose from the bed to leave.
We talked lightly as I
put my clothes on.
 
I don’t remember the words you used
or the tone in your voice
when you instructed me to
leave the shirt
I had borrowed to sleep in.
 
And I think in that moment I knew
I wouldn’t be back in this room
or in that bed
or under the two blankets
sleeping next to you without
a pillow because you only had one.
 
I took the T-shirt off and
didn’t listen to your explanation
of what it meant to you
and don’t remember if
I even asked
or if I said
something funny to blunt
how it felt being told
to leave this piece of you.
 
It was in that short sentence
I realized
you didn’t want any loose ends.
I would be a temporary connection,
an afterthought.
 
Now looking back
at a moment meant to mean nothing
but charged with more than
I could’ve grasped in the
fog of alcohol,
I wonder what it is
that T-shirt means to you.
 
Maybe you just like it.
It’s vintage and cool
and worn and
it looks like its traveled and
I loved the way it felt when I put it on.
 
When I took it off it felt cold and
used and I
wanted to tell you that I
didn’t want to take it from you
in the first place.
 
And in hindsight I know
that the t-shirt didn’t fit,
it wasn’t mine to wear.
Maybe the contrast of it on me
was too telling.
Maybe it was clear just how much
it did not belong to me.
 
It was that simple request
to leave what was yours
exactly where you wanted it
that led me to hear
what you have said from the start.
 
In the end,
I’m thinking
of how it felt
waking up to the sunrise
in a t-shirt that wasn’t my own.
 
I liked
wearing something
important to you and
although it was temporary
I liked how it felt.

I liked who 
I imagined
you saw in that t-shirt.