1. Rio Grande
My sister was found dead below a bridge. The police called it
a suicide, but nobody knows for sure.
This is when I learned that people could die more than once, more than one way; it just depends on who remembers. I didn't know why grandma was telling her about someone who died before I was born, who I'd never meet, only that I was supposed to learn a lesson. I knew that our mother's family, Catholics, believed in magic, prophets turning things into other things, dead people coming back to life. I was suspicious; people have been turned into salt for not following directions. I still have the sister my grandmother gave me, standing over the edge:
decided/forced/jumped/pushed/fell/thrown/landed/landed: never knowing if she got what she deserved, what she'd done wrong.
2. Something About Roses
Grandma looked at her grandson like she wanted to kill him. He looked Spanish, was all mom would tell us. Grandma's cocktail hours, vodka dreams of sister suicides and evil witches twisted a boy's face into the anti-christ. A doll, her "kitchen witch," panty hoes olive skin stuffed with cotton, flew on her broom above her counters in the kitchen, Formica & glitter & a lime green oven. Its been there for years, she told her granddaughter, the child she didn't want to kill, combing out the lice from her head, placing their little black seizures on a white dish rag. Little did Grandma know, fifteen years later, her other daughter, bi-polar coke head, would go into the Catholic cemetery, lift a bouquet from Saunders and place it in the vase above Clegg. For you, Mom.
3. The Tube
Soon before she died, the tube ran from her grandmother into a little bag attached to the side of the bed. For months, mom would play games to pass the time, saying "Look, Mom! It's purple!" when grape juice would pass through the tube. I was never quite sure if grandma liked this game, blue cool-aid or lemonade, orange juice without the vodka, her teeth responding, gnashing rapidly like a slow animal continuing to eat what's already been eaten. I wasn't allowed to play, mom afraid I'd mess up the machines, trip over the other tubes weaving in and out of her limbs, as if her skin, too, was a kind of liquid. When she was given water and the tube ran red, we took her to the hospital. The doctor reached his hand into her body, ripped out the tube, told us she could go home.
4. Slip of the god
During the Rosary, my brother took the picture, got in a good close-up of grandma in her coffin. 20 years later, she's on the fridge, her face like someone stuck a straw up her nose, sucked out all the face.
Here's a metaphor to describe her make-up:
Like a whore.
Like a clown.
Like a whore in clown school.
Here's a metaphor for her body:
Like a left over
Like an overcooked vegetable in a doggy bag
Like a pile of clown bones in a blue dress
Here's a metaphor for the Polaroid:
Like a kind of promise in Tupperware
Like a picture of a dead woman stuck to the fridge with a Domino's Pizza magnet
Like a tongue emerging slowly, MILF tattooed inside the lip
Here's an excuse for her daughter:
5. Dear Grandma,
Your Coke Head daughter slipped it out of your wallet while your lungs were slacking on the job, your mouth open like you were so surprised you went down the way you did.
Your credit card still lived, though, 3 months after your death, kinda like a headless chicken
ashes to ashes
Thought you should know,
Renee K. Nelson is an MFA Creative Writing candidate at San Francisco State University, where she currently
teaches Composition. She lives in Oakland, California with her husband and two cats.