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Tim Van Ert

Tough at ten

Amelia, my father's mother,

lived too far from California to be Grandma.

Nebraska's distance stretched her title wider:

Grandmother 'Melia.

But it was into grandma's lap we'd slip

after two thousand miles on our Dodge's hard cushions.


All of ten, I really wanted to check out the bra section.

But excitement was running through me--I just had time

to tear and wipe with that cold, glossy Sears & Roebuck.

Guess uncle James was trying to cool me off

with direct-hit squirts of unpasteurized cow's milk.

Grandma 'Melia handed me towels to dry off,

then a lap-seat show of her photo album.


Even that fading black and white

showed her face in tactile contradiction:

mango fresh cheeks up to the rims

where two coal-rough eyes begin.

She holds her infant sister

one third her size: head above head

with electric fence eyes

daring, "get past here alive!"


"My Lord," I worried even then,

"was she ever given time to be ten?"

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