The Day Mandela Died
by Alicia Vandevorst
Now, these years, with tinsel through my hair, my grandmother
sits, hands slackened between her thighs, and watches
the wash of sunlight through my mother’s window; that
is beautiful, she says, in her empty wasp-nest voice,
all day the wind has shaken the shadows on the walls
and the potted flowers glow, it has been so quick, this day,
she says, at last, I am so happy just to sit and watch.
But in my sorrow I washed two towels with the delicates
and in my rush to fix the sheets, I left the door ajar
and the heat goes out that my husband wanted in, and that is like before,
when the cat ran wild from the opened cage into the winter wood,
with his limp, at dusk, he cried in answer, but no longer came to my hands.
What hands can do, that is what has passed from her
and both sun and shadow flash with glory like accomplishments;
but she does not wrestle with her powers anymore
and can enjoy the whole in passive gratitude.
I wonder how my death will be; that I may sit in sunlight,
warm with impartial heat, bony frame wrapped in a shawl
and the last glimpse is of red, lit leaves.
This is a way I might let light usher me out,
as if the sun’s pressure became more real
than the stories in these busy bones.
Tonight, I wrap beside my sleepy daughter,
hold her moist, plump hand, again,
sing, dee, dee, dee, and swing low
sweet chariot, coming for to carry, and
she asks for me to stay a little longer.