After My Grandfather's Second Stroke

by Lou Lipsitz

Three-week coma,
enfeebled left arm. He slowly came back —
physical therapy, exercise — and after a time
he was himself again,
and we figured the binges would resume.

But instead he stayed in his room
without the radio on
and let his beard grow out white.

Instead of not coming home
for a week at a time, or coming home
cursing five nights in a row,
he was silent and every evening
came out for a snack of bread, jam,
and tea before bed.

While he was taking a stroll
one day, we snuck in
and found the poems:
one about the death-fear
he'd experienced before the coma;
one about walking the streets
alone; one about a woman
he could not speak of;
one about the ocean and
how it might feel to be a blind man
walking into it; one about
how he had seen his mother's
breasts when she'd been
drunk and wild, and he'd wanted
to run into the street.

It was as if we'd come across
a tunnel under our house
that led out beyond the lake
to the valley of another language.

No one mentioned the poems, but
something changed after we found them. My anger
began to dissolve. And when we assembled
at the table for dinner,
I noticed how my grandmother,
who had not slept in the same bed
with him for thirty years,
would sometimes, while serving
the food, reach over to touch his hand.