Letter to an Unmet Grandmother

A letter that can never be sent, a photo hidden in a box, a child’s loving fantasy and vision of connection to her mother-line are gathered together to make an evocative and moving poem.  It nearly crackles in the hand!  And it gives new life to the lost and fine art of letter writing.

Letter to an Unmet Grandmother                                                       Kathleen Lynch

They said there was nothing of yours left

but I found a black & white under the lining

of a rat-gnawed jewelry box. Until now you existed

only in stories, the hardest one the slow-leaked

secret about your suicide. First, I thought you look

too strong for someone who would do that, but

I know deep things are never that simple, and guess

it’s more about luck, or something nameless.

Now I’m a grandmother myself—Maga to our flourishing

boys. I’ve seen seven decades of family history unreel

with its tangles and splices. But as a child I believed

that if only I’d known you, if you’d waited for me

to come along, I’d have been able to charm or cheer you

out of it. I’d pretend we’d come to visit, and you’d rush us

with your wide embrace, and somehow I’d be the one

who would end up on your lap, and you’d untwine my

waist-long braids, brush and brush until my hair

rose up electric to meet your hand.

That dream’s behind me now, but the afterlife of its wish

burrowed in as if it had come true. I will say this: I love

knowing that once you carried my mother in your body,

and she was born with half of me in her, and that means

in a way I lived in you once, like a picture waiting in an

undeveloped roll. And the dog in the photo — your dog

I suppose. How gently you lean to the mutt, offer a treat

from your apron. I can almost see you ruffle her fur

in the next frame; almost hear you coo, Good girl, good girl.

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