Susan Glickman

Beauty (1990)



Maybe there are no easy deaths but Grandpa’s


was terrible. The scuttling crab-wise crawl


of the disease eating him


for months, a slow insult.


The scotch-and-nicotine smell of him


gone off, festering,


so that even he flinched from his skin,


that strange dank leather


clammy as a wet groundsheet


stretched over his bones.


Bones he’d kept modestly hidden


in his patriarch’s bulk, his executive jowls,


all naked and poor


in plain view—my fierce private grandfather






My mother was afraid of him:


his Sit up straight! his Girls


don’t go to college.


My sister, only little when he died, remembers


a scowling giant whose moustache spoiled


his kisses.


And he was fierce, his longshoreman’s fists,


but with me he was always courtly. We discussed things.


And Grandpa, you were right,


which I knew even then, about beauty.


It comes from inside, you said (But I was only


twelve, desperate for power, afraid I might never


have any) It has nothing to do


with fashion.




We were sitting in your wood-panelled den, the TV on


to Bonanza or Perry Mason, your favourites,


and talking. And I knew you were right.


But even now I can feel that hard little knot, that “no,”


stuck in my throat like a candy


stolen from your secret cupboard and swallowed guiltily


and whole, that knot of stubbornness which, like the candy,


like everything I took from you, silver dollars, a complete set


of Dickens, your gold pen, was mine


from inside, my true inheritance.