In silent movies, my grandma is 27,
kneeling in the shallow water of the Long Island Sound
playing pattycake with her prince, my strawberry blonde uncle.
She is the queen and drip sandcastles her throne,
a purple high-waisted bikini her gown.
She tickles his stomach with two fingers
& his laughter is so electric
it threatens to shatter the silent screen.
If sounds can be seen, then this is joy.
It starts to rain, but they keep smiling
& she kisses his belly, again & again
as drops of freshwater make little ripples in the ocean.
There are so many things I wish I could tell them.
I want to wrap that little boy in a hug &
whisper the whiskey will kill, but weed can ease the pain
& the last thing the world needs is another grey flannel suit.
I would take her hand and say sexuality isn’t a choice
& separation is no worse than meat in Lent.
Being loved and being known are so rarely the same-
you can fuck whores by the tenfold like your daddy did
& who would need to know?
It’s all just a footnote in time.
When she thought of my future,
my mother dreamed of furniture-
tufted chesterfield sectionals and regal settees,
mahogany sleigh beds draped in crisp whites
& throw pillows lofted off the bed like large softballs.
Fresh lilies in simple crystal vases, begging to be broken.
And big windows. Bay windows. In every room!
& each with a reading nook
carefully mixing Henry James and Us Weekly,
Anne Sexton and Candace Bushnell.
An open concept kitchen with an island, naturally,
marble countertops and a farmhouse sink-
wide enough to bathe three chickens.
And my office. The office she talked about building
off her master bedroom
where nothing ever grew but ivy and dirt.
Mine would be modern- an elegant writing desk,
two large windows overlooking pine trees
sprinkled with sugar snow and a fireplace for winter.
I don’t know who was supposed to live in this house.
When I was little, she said I’d be there with my husband
& the house would be outside of Boston & brick with green shutters.
But I grew up & the house became a dream.
She got high on benzos and crashed the car twice,
stopped sleeping and showering, spent a week in the hospital.
Lost a year of her life watching television.
Lost a year of my life watching her watch television,
shaking her awake every few hours
making sure she hadn’t gone.
I longed for her to tell me about rococo armoires-
& other words I didn’t know that felt like marbles of chocolate in my mouth.
Ro- Co- Co. Looping around my tongue like a Ferris wheel.
Family of the Year, 1939
White, hard leather sandals
up two sizes every summer &
still too small,
julienning ankles &
the sides of pinkie toes with elf-sized knives.
Sundresses that leave shallow pools
of sweat on the small of your back
& the dent between your nipples.
Take me off, take it all off &
throw me in a pile on the floor
like after church in June
peeling cream white pantyhose down
little stick legs with light blonde hairs
beginning to poke up around the knees.
Lie flat on your back
& pray for a breeze between the morning sun
and thick afternoon thunder.
Outside, Mama’s kitten heels
play hurried melodies on the parquet floors
made of carved triangles of wood, wrapped together like a sun
or some other big round thing.
& you know she’d smack you good
if she saw your dress wrinkled on the floor,
but she doesn’t open the door.
Daddy’s voice comes down the hall in waves
& you can’t quite make out the words
only the vowels at the top of the swells.
Make up the words in your head,
Oh yes dear, chicken sounds excellent.
Sarah Destin is from Saratoga, California. She recently received her B.A. in creative writing from Hamilton College in Clinton, New York. In the fall, she will begin working on her MFA in fiction at the University of Washington. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Hobart, Pinyon, Santa Clara Review, Fourth & Sycamore and 1 Over the 8. Follow her on Twitter @sarahdestin.