Jan’s mother Eleanor baked cakes
Right off the pages of magazines
And spoke in soft Southern tones
I remember her house
As always slightly dark
Muted and quiet
Andi’s mother Shirley had a maid
The only one on the block
And laughed out loud at the world
We never went in her living room
That was for company
My mother Olga made cookies
That no one had ever heard of
And couldn’t pronounce
The lunchroom teacher-monitor
Made my brother and me
Eat our sardine sandwiches in the gym
And made fun of Olga’s vestigial accent
I imagined Eleanor’s sandwiches
As perfect and American
And asked Olga why we didn’t
Have sandwiches like that
Which made her cry
And then make those sandwiches
I imagined Eleanor
As perfect and American
As Olga would never be

I never taught my daughter
To bake cakes
But I taught her the unpronounceable cookies
Olga is gone, and Shirley is gone
And now Eleanor is gone
All the mothers are gone and somehow
We are the elders, now

On the death of Eleanor Roberts

One thought on “Elders

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