What I Heard

by Marianne Lyon

Somewhere in all of us are memories of how we were at six
Sundays at Grandma’s are melted into me
I see them as clearly as a stage set —
her barn-like kitchen, oak table long with extra leaves
lace cloth, mix matched cups fitted on saucers

Friends drop in after church
for a coffee, strudel, a shot of whisky
the kitchen, a wide alley of sound,
I squint my ears to the Croatian words
like nonsense rhymes
we concoct playing jump rope

Every linguistic morsel consumes me
the room, a communal throat
I go back and forth like a swinging gate
the exchanges electrify me

Grandma’s friend Maria stands by the wall furnace
forehead a ladder of wrinkles
black hairs stiff from creases above her pursed lips
she runs her fingers through her hair
as if trying to comb her thoughts into place
her eyes grow big beyond belief
when something pleases her
she is like a dog-eared page in the script of my early life
I move even closer thinking that I will understand

But sudden crescendos, accents, legatos, silences play me
into another language —
the language of imagination.
Its spirit holds me there
like the smell of bread to a bakery

I look back on those Sundays at Grandma’s
sounds tucked away in the attic of my memories.
I listened through the static,
gleaned that a smile can hurl out an opinion
understood from deep lines in Maria’s face
that grief doesn’t always come out in tears.


Journal, Volume 3 Issue 4