by Kendra L. Tanacea
For My Grandfather
Every Sunday, church. In his gold shirt.
On Easter, in his black overcoat and buttonholed
carnation, he carved lamb from a spit in our yard.
Later, we danced in a tight circle. Opa! Papu.
When his daughter was born, he paid for the delivery
with an inlaid chest, fitting all those pieces together:
the concerned doctor, chin in hand, the feverish child,
the lantern’s honey-stained light.
On April Fools’ Day, his wife’s birthday, he carved
the skin off an orange in a continuous spiral,
recomposed it into a perfect whole, placed it
in the wooden fruit bowl.
When she could no longer speak, he made her
an easy chair. And combed her gray hair
and built us a home with its bones
on the outside. All those years of scaffolding.
After thirty years of piecework, after arthritis
bowed his fingers, he carved a chair for the bishop
with a relief of St. George, riding a rearing horse,
spearing the open-mouthed dragon.
He carved at night. Steady hand, chisel,
curlicues of wood. Sawdust resting in the wrinkles
of his pants, on his white mustache, in the hollow
of his good ear.
When he became ill, he sank into the love seat
by the plate-glass window. In silhouette,
his Einstein hair, Philip of Macedon nose,
and slight paunch that grew with cancer.
That February before he died, he carved Lincoln
out of snow. Great man seated on his chair,
chiseled features. At dusk, he splashed it
with water and, overnight, it iced like marble.