From a Lighthouse, Zach Russo
[Trigger Warning: Child Death Mention/Death Mention]
Her little house smells like sulfur.
Inside, it glows yellow,
a combination of southern sun and outdated light fixtures.
Her tap water tastes salty.
My great-grandmother hates antiques.
She is ninety-five years old today.
“Why you wanna buy something old, baby?”
She stands with one arm resting on the bulge of her belly.
She bakes bread.
She says her rosary.
She outlives one of her children.
She says black birds shouldn’t fly with red birds,
her inherited metaphor for segregation;
I change the channel in passive disagreement,
as we half-watch the news and flip through magazines,
remembering she grew up in a swamp.
I rewash her dishes, and look at her paintings of Jesus.
She dropped out of school in the sixth grade.
She pulls out a shoebox of love letters from 1945
written by the boy her daughter didn’t wait for,
a decision she still laments.
“Felicia married a loser instead. Don’t you marry no loser, sugar.”
Her first husband was such a drunk
he ran over a little boy getting out of a school bus.
She saved up for two years to buy a winter coat,
and waited sixty-three to marry the true love of her life.
She still marvels at how clean his fingernails were,
even now, two decades after his death.
My great-grandmother stirs her gravy, tossing in whole pieces of wet bread.
She laughs at my uncles putting lizards on their ears like earrings.
“C’mon, y’all, let’s eat.”
She leads us in grace, and eats with one arm resting on the bulge of her belly.
Audrey Shulman graduated from Bennington College in 2009. She hails from Nashville, Tennessee, and wants to be a television writer. You can find her hosting tea parties in Los Angeles. “Brittany Road” was originally published in practicum plain china.
About the Artist
Zachary Russo, Vassar College
Zachary Russo is a rising senior at Vassar College, where he is currently in the pursuit of a film degree and a creative writing correlate. See more of his photography at www.flickr.com/photos/zachrusso/.