My grandmother

       always has a decanter of gin 

              hidden—maybe stashed in

                         the study, tucked behind 

              a row of books. 


A store stockpiled

       somewhere and a habit of sneaking

              away from the family

                         to top off her tumbler, 

              as though we don’t


notice how it 

       remains full—small miracle—despite

              her sipping and slurring.

                         After we all turn in,

              she stays up late 


into the night, 

       cleaning the kitchen, washing dishes, 

              flinging pots, creating

                         a strange cacophony

              that echoes through 


the house. She’s a 

       virtuoso of clatter and clank, 

              a one-woman free jazz 

                         group—jangle bang improv,

              crashing reverb.


In the living

       room, in the dark, my father and I

              would listen and laugh at 

                         the percussion of slammed

              cabinets, rhythm



       by her hacking cough—legacy of

             a lifetime spent smoking

                         Parliaments, that tortured

              inhale rattle 


like a switch brush

       swept across a snare. As far back as

              my father could recall, 

                         he’d fallen asleep to  

              strains of discord. 


The night after

       he takes his own life—silences the 

              dissonance with a roar 

                         of gunshot—I drink rot

              gut gin with my 


grandmother on

       the rocks. December chill creeps in through

              the kitchen window. Wrapped

                         in a blanket, knees curled 

              tight to my chest,


I still shiver,

       but she leans into the open air,

              stripped down to white cotton

                         bra and underpants. Gold

              bracelets, a slew


of stacked rings, and

       a burning cigarette adorn her. 

              She’s a vision standing 

                         there, holding herself up—

              some strange angel


of regret. Her

       bare belly—distended from liver 

              damage, undiagnosed 


              on spindle legs.  


Her feet, deep blue 

       with bad circulation. Her hair like

              a dandelion gone

                         to seed. Her eyes red and

              wet, the way they


get when the wind 

       won’t stop blowing. And the kitchen is

              quiet for once—no more

                         dishes to scour, nothing

              to put away.