The Grandmothers

The Grandmothers
– a fragment of family history¸

How do I know they love me?
(Loved me?)
Perhaps they loved duty more,
(and their respectable husbands
when they came along),
these grandmothers of mine,
stitched and buttoned and laced
into their boots and gloves and leg-o’-mutton sleeves,
their long cambric nightdresses,
their bedcaps, bonnets and shawls.

How serene they look, cameo-like
in their silhouettes, daguerreotypes,
pinned upon the wall,
sepia-toned photographs
tucked inside the lace-frilled,
beriblboned, dried flower pressed
family albums.

How neat and precise is their handwriting
in laundry lists, shopping lists, letters
(to one another, to lovers and lost uncles)
tied up in lavender ribbon;
slender upstrokes, firm downstrokes, delineating
births, marriages, deaths in
the family bible.

What have they left me,
these grandmothers?
Needlework samplers, earnestly worked
with pious verses in minute stitches,
their likenesses, names and dates
of long-dead relations,
and a handful of letters
fraying and fading in their lavender cache.

From my perspective,
their lives seem orderly, tidy,
as well-designed, laid-out and executed
as one of those samplers,
the pattern laid down,
(births, marriages, deaths)
like the stitching,
in harmony with their ideals.
Only the letters, bundled away,
seem to suggest
that this orderliness
was not always easy to achieve.

This poem received a Highly Commended award in the 4th Literary Competition  In the Foothills of the Dandenongs, and was published in the resulting anthology, Poppy Seeds and Laurel Tree, Vol. 4, published by Papyrus Publishing 1994. ISBN 0-646-23259-6