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Poetry of Issue #8        Page 65

AT SEVEN, I CONSIDERED
THE WORD “OLD”

I knew my mother’s mother
American matriarch
jowls and no eyebrows
I knew my father’s grandmother
tiny bird born in Russia
wrinkles deep as rivers
I thought I lived in a castle
had no idea its tower was fake
then—
on a family vacation to Italy
in relentless heat
I gasped at columns and porticoes
the color of bone of dust
paintings dripping with bloody
crucifixes
the ravaged birthday cake
of the Coliseum
people who stood where I stood
thousands of years ago
had lived and died
lived and died
more times than I could grasp
one inky night
I saw a dead cat
floating with garbage
in Venice
its stiff wet corpse
electrocuted me
when I got home
nothing was as I left it
the green grass of summer
had turned brown
the cat I loved and the carpet
jumped with fleas
that bit me
for the first time at 4 a.m.
I couldn’t sleep—
a few brave birds
I’d never heard
announced the unwelcome dawn.

  Jacqueline Coleman-Fried