Photo by Pontus Wellgraf on Unsplash

Poem: “She Is”

My grandmother is a limestone temple; 

she is a titanium rod, she is an iron lung. 

She is not just flesh and blood that will wilt and blacken 

over fire, she is the flames; 

Tall and hot, dancing in every color, 

and impossible to contain. She is the lightning strike 

and the brimstone, she is the forget-me-nots 

scattered across the prairie. She wrestles with God 

and his entire misguided army. She is mistaken for smoke 

rising over the treetops when she is really the clouds 

that have been there since sunrise. 

She is not a star hung on a silver chain 

or pinned to a lapel, she is the full moon. 

God looked back at Adam and hung his head 

after he watched her spin her own self out of heaps 

of ashes on the floor; For she is not unclean or untouchable, 

she is the lamb for the sake of creation, 

she is an emblem of the resilience of her people. 

She is not a pilgrim, she is not tied to a holy land 

or cursed to wander, she is the soil. 

She beckoned Israel to her bones, 

and though she lies in Israel today, 

she is, she is, she is. 

Poetry Editor Alicia Ostriker comments: 

This extravagant, hyperbole-filled poem is not merely a tribute to the poet’s grandmother. It is a litany of reversals and expansions of conventional meaning, making grandmother not just a great life force but one who can wrestle with God, and be a phoenix risen from death, and even become a promised land in her own right.