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.

5

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

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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

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exposed.

 

 

 

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

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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,

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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.

 

 

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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

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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.